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NEUR473 Special Topic: Sensory Neuroscience

Advanced concepts in sensory neuroscience.

Sensory Neuroscience is the study of how the brain processes sensory information and is a major branch of neuroscience. NEUR 473 is a research-based paper devoted to topics in sensory neuroscience (e.g. the visual, auditory and vestibular systems) with an emphasis on issues that are common to all sensory systems, such as the general principles of sensory coding, how the brain changes following sensory loss and the implications of these changes for disorders such as Alzheimer’s Disease.

Paper title Special Topic: Sensory Neuroscience
Paper code NEUR473
Subject Neuroscience
EFTS 0.1667
Points 20 points
Teaching period Semester 1 (On campus)
Domestic Tuition Fees (NZD) $1,748.85
International Tuition Fees Tuition Fees for international students are elsewhere on this website.

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Recommended Preparation
PSYC 323

Teaching staff

Professor Paul Smith
Associate Professor Yiwen Zheng

Paper Structure

NEUR 473 will include a combination of seminars and practicals.

  • Week 1 Seminar: Introduction to sensory neuroscience
  • Week 2 Seminar: The philosophical basis of sensation: Idealism, representationism and realism
  • Week 3 Seminar: The peripheral and central visual system
  • Week 3 Practical: Testing visual function: From ophthalmology to cognitive neuropsychology
  • Week 4 Seminar: The peripheral and central auditory system
  • Week 4 Practical: Testing auditory function: From audiometry to cognitive neuropsychology
  • Week 5 Seminar: The peripheral and central vestibular system
  • Week 5 Practical: Testing vestibular function: Vestibular reflex testing and beyond
  • Week 6 Student presentations I (formative assessment)
  • Week 7 Seminar: Integration of visual, auditory and vestibular information: Perceiving the whole
  • Week 7 Practical: The effects of one sensory system upon another; synesthesia
  • Week 8 Seminar: Sensory disorders, e.g. tinnitus, visual and, hearing loss, vertigo, phantom limb pain
  • Week 9 Seminar: Drug effects on sensory systems
  • Week 10 Seminar: Artificial sensory systems, e.g. cochlear, vestibular and visual implants; brain implants
  • Week 10 Practical: A close look at artificial sensory systems, e.g. retinal implants, cochlear implants
  • Week 11 Seminar: Bayesian models of sensory systems
  • Week 12 Seminar: Artificial sensory systems and their philosophical and legal implications
  • Week 13 Student presentations II
Teaching Arrangements

Student presentations will be included.


Principles of Neural Science, 5th Edition, E.R. Kandel et al. 2013, McGraw Hill (recommended but not compulsory)

Graduate Attributes Emphasised

Scholarship, Research, Critical thinking, Communication, Interdisciplinary perspective, Information literacy, Lifelong learning
View more information about Otago's graduate attributes.

Learning Outcomes

Students who successfully complete the paper will:

  • Understand how sensory systems transmit information to the brain, according to basic principles of sensory coding (Interdisciplinary perspective, Scholarship, Critical thinking, Information literacy)
  • Acquire a basic understanding of how sensory information is integrated within the brain in order to initiate action (Scholarship, Critical thinking, Research)
  • Understand how aging, neurological disorders and drugs affect sensory systems and how sensory stimulation may be used to help treat certain disorders (Interdisciplinary perspective, Scholarship, Critical thinking, Information literacy)
  • Be inspired to understand and consider the critical importance of sensory information for every brain function (Lifelong learning)
  • Appreciate the philosophical and ethical implications of sensory dysfunction and attempts to repair it, e.g. with cochlear implants (Scholarship, Information literacy, Lifelong learning)
  • Appreciate the important role of computer and mathematical modelling in understanding sensory systems (Communication, Interdisciplinary perspective, Information literacy)
  • Understand the importance of information literacy in relation to research published in the area of sensory neuroscience (Information literacy)

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Semester 1

Teaching method
This paper is taught On Campus
Learning management system


Stream Days Times Weeks
A1 Wednesday 13:00-16:50 9-14, 16-21