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PSYC474 Nervous System Plasticity

Brain mechanisms underlying learning and memory.

Animals must learn to survive, and the brain is the learning machine that does the job. But how does it do it? In this paper, we investigate the neural mechanisms of learning and memory, with particular emphasis on the physiological, molecular and anatomical mechanisms. Model systems of study include the rodent hippocampus, cerebral cortex and amygdala, plus human studies.

Paper title Nervous System Plasticity
Paper code PSYC474
Subject Psychology
EFTS 0.1667
Points 20 points
Teaching period Full Year
Domestic Tuition Fees (NZD) $1,282.09
International Tuition Fees (NZD) $5,357.07

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Admission requires an average grade of at least B+ in 300-level PSYC papers and satisfactory performance in PSYC 311. For Neuroscience students, the prerequisites are met by completion of the requirements for a BSc in Neuroscience with an average grade of at least B+ in 300-level Neuroscience papers.
Entry into Psychology 400-level normally requires a major in Psychology, a B+ average or higher in Psychology 300-level papers, and a pass in PSYC 311 Quantitative Methods. We highly recommend that students have completed PSYC 310. Students from other universities must show evidence of an equivalent level of competence.
Teaching staff
Lecturer: Professor Cliff Abraham
Paper Structure
The paper will cover a range of topics related to learning and memory, including:
  • Neurophysiology
  • Signal transduction
  • Hippocampal physiology
  • Long-term potentiation and long-term depression
  • Fragile X syndrome
  • Synaptic plasticity
  • Neuromodulation of plasticity
  • Neurogenesis
  • Fear conditioning
  • Memory consolidation
  • Alzheimer's disease
Class meetings - consisting of lectures, student presentations and discussions - will be held once a week.

Assessment: 60% of the final grade is based on student presentations/seminars, an essay on a seminar topic, a test and a brief research proposal. 40% of the final grade is based on a three-hour final exam.
  • Seminar 1 10%
  • Seminar 2 15%
  • Essay 15%
  • Test 15%
  • Research proposal 5%
  • Final exam 40%
Teaching Arrangements
One 3-hour seminar per week; full-year paper.
Readings will consist of original journal articles and reviews.
Graduate Attributes Emphasised
Communication, Critical thinking, Information literacy, Self-motivation.
View more information about Otago's graduate attributes.
Learning Outcomes
Students who successfully complete the paper will develop
  • The ability to read, critique and assimilate information from primary research articles and reviews pertaining to mechanisms of nervous system plasticity and memory
  • In-depth knowledge of two topic areas on which seminars will be presented and one essay written, affording the basis on which to develop skills in critiquing experimental design and data
  • A high standard of verbal communication skills
  • The ability to identify a critical research controversy in the memory mechanism area and design an experimental plan for addressing this controversy

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Internal Assessment

Internal assessment (60%) is based on student presentations, an essay on a seminar topic, a test, and a brief research proposal. 

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Full Year

Teaching method
This paper is taught On Campus
Learning management system


Stream Days Times Weeks
L1 Wednesday 09:00-11:50 9-13, 15-16, 18-22, 28-34, 36-41