Evolutionary Genetics and Neurobiology

Module code: NT4005

‘Evolutionary Genetics’ gives you an introductory overview of the genetic basis for the evolution of genes, genomes, and phenotypes from both theoretical and experimental perspectives. This module will investigate the evolution of life from the RNA world and beyond. By exploring evolutionary histories of gene regulation with particular reference to developmental and behavioural genes in humans, you will gain a comprehensive understanding of the role that evolution plays in the diversity and maintenance of different life forms.

Understanding how nervous systems function is one of the great challenges of modern biology. Those of different animals - including humans - vary, but all solve similar problems to ensure the animal is to survive. How do different nervous systems detect, process, and act on signals from the environment? What principles of neuronal organisation and function underpin this signal processing and the behaviours that result? Studying neurobiology you will learn about a range of sensory systems, including proprioception, touch, hearing and olfaction, and see how neurobiologists analyse their underlying mechanisms. You will examine how these different modalities of sensory information are processed and used by animals to elicit and control a wide range of behaviours including locomotion and targetted reaching movements. How can we use our knowledge of brain function to create better brain-computer interfaces and autonomous robots?

Topics covered

  • Origin of life
  • Genetic diversity and evolution
  • Gene duplication, phylogeny and capacitance in evolution
  • Evolutionary pressures that gave rise the modern humans
  • Homeobox genes
  • Mass extinctions and their relationship to evolution of new biota
  • Comparison of vertebrate and invertebrate proprioceptors and auditory organs
  • Integration of sensory information to generate behaviour
  • Principles of olfactory coding
  • Neuronal mechanisms of limb movement
  • Neuronal population coding comparison to sensory-motor systems
  • Arthropod motor behaviour
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