Comparative Neurobiology

Module code: BS3064

Module co-ordinator: Dr Tom Matheson

  • 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?

Understanding how nervous systems function is one of the great challenges of modern biology. Those of different animals, including humans, differ widely, but all solve similar fundamental problems that must be overcome if the animal is to survive. In this module you will learn about a range of sensory systems, including proprioception, touch, hearing and olfaction, and see how neurobiologists analyse their underlying mechanisms. we 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 aimed reaching movements.

Topics covered

  • Structure and fucntion of specific vertebrate and invertebrate proprioceptors
  • Structure and fucntion of specific vertebrate and invertebrate auditory organs
  • How brains represent and integrate sensory information to generate behaviour; comparison of organisation and function between modalities and distantly related animals
  • General principles of olfactory coding in relation to brain structure in animals and humans
  • Problems faced by animals in making aimed limb movements, and the neuronal mechanisms used to overcome them
  • Neuronal population coding in invertebrate and vertebrate sensory-motor systems
  • Experimental investigation of aspects of arthropod motor behaviour


  • 24 one-hour lectures
  • 4 one-hour tutorials
  • 22 hours of practicals


  • Exam, 3 hours (70%)
  • Practical report (15%)
  • Essay, 2,000 words (15%).