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ZOOL314 Neurobiology

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

In ZOOL 314 we explore how nervous systems evolved; how they gather, process and integrate information to produce natural behaviours; and how they enable animals to learn from experience.  Neuroethology, the study of simpler nervous systems and behaviour in simpler vertebrates and invertebrates, is providing interesting and important new insights into nervous systems and cognition in human health and disease.

Paper title Neurobiology
Paper code ZOOL314
Subject Zoology
EFTS 0.15
Points 18 points
Teaching period Semester 2 (On campus)
Domestic Tuition Fees (NZD) $1,110.75
International Tuition Fees Tuition Fees for international students are elsewhere on this website.

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54 200-level points from Science Schedule C
Schedule C
Teaching staff

Dr Jenny Jandt
Dr Paul Szyszka
Dr Bart Geurten

Paper Structure

Human brains evolved from much simpler nervous systems that first appeared in simple marine animals more than half a billion years ago. Studying how nervous systems evolved from these humble beginnings can provide fundamental understanding of the anatomy, physiology, development and function of complex modern brains like yours. Simple nervous systems in simple animals are increasingly being used as model systems to study fundamental questions in neurobiology, including biomedical problems, as we gain increasing understanding of similarities and differences in nervous systems of different animals.

Topics covered include:

  • Evolution of the first neurons and nervous systems
  • Perception, decision making and agile movement control in simple animal models
  • Emergent intelligence in social insects
  • Neural mechanisms of learning and memory
  • Broader implications and applications of neuroethology
Teaching Arrangements

Content is available online before classes. Students are expected to discuss lecture content during lectures, which is closely linked to practical exercises.

Textbooks are not required for this paper.
Graduate Attributes Emphasised
Global perspective, Interdisciplinary perspective, Lifelong learning, Scholarship, Communication, Critical thinking, Ethics, Information literacy, Research, Self-motivation, Teamwork.
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
  • They will understand the importance of diversity and teamwork in solving complex problems
  • They will be able to apply knowledge and skills learned in this paper to novel problems within and beyond neurobiology

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Semester 2

Teaching method
This paper is taught On Campus
Learning management system


Stream Days Times Weeks
A1 Tuesday 10:00-10:50 28-34, 36-41
Wednesday 10:00-10:50 28-34, 36-41


Stream Days Times Weeks
Attend one stream from
A1 Friday 14:00-17:50 28-34, 36-41
A2 Friday 14:00-17:50 28-34, 36-41