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ZOOL314 Neurobiology

Evolution and development of brains; sensory systems and how animals perceive the world; control of agile movement; behavioural plasticity; mechanisms of memory.

As neuroscience has advanced more and more rapidly in recent years, studies on the nervous systems of nematodes, molluscs, insects, amphibians and fish - in addition to those of reptiles, birds and mammals - have provided fascinating new information about how nervous systems are designed and how they work. ZOOL 314 examines how nervous systems have evolved; how they gather, process and integrate information to produce natural behaviours; and how they enable animals to learn from experience.

Paper title Neurobiology
Paper code ZOOL314
Subject Zoology
EFTS 0.1500
Points 18 points
Teaching period Second Semester
Domestic Tuition Fees (NZD) $1,038.45
International Tuition Fees (NZD) $4,492.80

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54 200-level points from Science Schedule C
Schedule C
Teaching staff
Associate Professor Michael Paulin
Professor Alison Mercer
Paper Structure
This paper is divided into two sections. The first focuses on brain evolution and how intelligent behaviour can arise in populations of individuals following simple rules. The second section focuses on social behaviours and their reliance on learning and memory. Cellular and molecular mechanisms that underlie behavioural plasticity are explored within this context.

Topics covered include:
  • Evolution of the first neurons and nervous systems
  • Neural basis of decision making (predator-prey interactions)
  • Emergent intelligence in social insects
  • Neural mechanisms of learning and memory
  • Hormonal effects on nervous systems and behaviour
Textbooks are not required for this paper.
Graduate Attributes Emphasised
Global perspective, Interdisciplinary perspective, Lifelong learning, Scholarship, Communication, Critical thinking, Self-motivation.
View more information about Otago's graduate attributes.
Learning Outcomes
  • Neurobiology students will have an understanding of neural systems, how they have evolved and how they work
  • They will have an appreciation of current issues in neurobiology
  • They will be able to apply critical thinking, scientific rigour and a systematic approach to investigations of animal behaviour and its neural basis
Teaching Arrangements
Content is available online before classes. Students are expected to turn up and discuss the 'lecture' material, which is closely linked to practical exercises.

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Second Semester

Teaching method
This paper is taught On Campus
Learning management system


Stream Days Times Weeks
L1 Tuesday 10:00-10:50 28-34, 36-41
Wednesday 10:00-10:50 28-34, 36-41


Stream Days Times Weeks
P1 Friday 14:00-17:50 28-34, 36-41