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The 1B Neurobiology lectures are shared between NST and PBS. Michaelmas term starts out by discussing neurobiology at the level of the neuron, where you will hear a lot about ion channels and neurotransmitters. Then you progress into the major senses, such as somatosensation and pain, hearing, olfaction and taste, as well as vision. You will move on into Lent by learning about the motor system, proprioception and sensorimotor integration. In Lent, you will also learn about neurobiology from a development perspective, ending off the term by exploring the psychology side of neurobiology, looking at motivation and emotion. You will end the year by looking at learning and memory, and finally consolidating all that you have been learning about in the final lecture series discussing the higher functions of the nervous system.

The 1B Neurobiology course is well suited for those who have had some prior knowledge and/or deeper interest in neurobiology, as the learning curve for this course gets steep very quickly. It can be quite a challenging course to follow for those who haven’t been exposed much to the neuron or the nervous system in school (plus, the 1A NST biological courses do not prepare you very well to transition into 1B Neurobiology). However, it can be done, if you are genuinely interested in this fascinating and complex field of biology.

Towards the end of the course, the focus shifts to more experimental and clinical evidence, as there are still many questions that still need to be answered in the field. It’s an up and coming field of interest, so you might want to check this course out if you’re curious to learn more! Lectures are at 12pm on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturdays, and lecture notes and slides are available ahead of time on Moodle.

The lecture series titles are listed below:


  • Introduction to Neurobiology
  • Electrical Properties of Neurons
  • Neurotransmission and Neuromodulation
  • Somatic Sensation
  • Hearing
  • Olfaction and Taste
  • Vision


  • Motor System
  • Sensorimotor Integration
  • Neural Determination
  • Development of Neural Connections
  • Synaptic Efficacy
  • Motivation and Emotion


  • Learning and Memory
  • Higher Functions of the Nervous System


Supervisions are pretty standard and are similar to what you may have experienced in part 1A. However, this may also be your first time having supervision partners who are doing a different course than you. You will have different insights from your different disciplines and different prior knowledge from the other modules you have done as part of your respective courses. The different perspectives are helpful for you to think more holistically on neurobiology and may help you write better essays with different inputs.


Practicals for the 1B Neurobiology course are only taken by the NatScis. If you took 1A PoO, you will find that the general structure of 1B Neurobiology practicals is similar, as they are organised by the PDN department.

These practicals are not assessed but are mostly tools to consolidate your knowledge from the lectures. There are a wide range of different formats of practicals, including a visit to the MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, and Addenbrookes Hospital, computer simulations, histology practicals, as well as an opportunity to learn human neuroanatomy hands-on using cadaver brains.

The practical session titles are as follows (subject to change):


  • Computer simulation of action potentials and synaptic transmission
  • Cutaneous sensation
  • Hearing
  • Vision: function of the eye


  • Zebrafish embryo and the nematode, C. elegans
  • Eye movements and vestibulo-ocular reflex
  • Human electrophysiology and motor reflexes
  • Functional brain imaging
  • Human neuroanatomy
  • Sensory nerves of the cockroach


  • Brain histology
  • Lateralization in the brain


While lecture series are given within specific topics, the exam will test you on how the different topics are interconnected. For example, you may be asked to compare and contrast certain features of a subset of the sensory systems you have studied in Michaelmas term. Or, how the higher functions of the brain are tied back to specific senses such as vision. Therefore, you might want to think critically about the course as a whole, when preparing for the examinations.

Past essay questions can be found on Moodle dating back over 10 years ago, for your reference.


There are two written papers for the 1B Neurobiology course:

Paper 1 (3 hours)

  • Write 4 out of 10 essay questions
  • To be taken by all 1B Neurobiology candidates

Paper 2 (1.5 hours)

  • There are two sections in this paper:
  • Section A (1 hour) To be taken by all 1B Neurobiology candidates 20 short answer questions
  • Section B (30 mins) Practical paper to be answered by NST candidates only 4 short answer questions

Useful resources 

Some recommended textbooks from the course handout:

  • Bear, M.F., Connors, B. & Paradiso, M. (2015). ‘Neuroscience: Exploring the Brain’, 4th edition, Lippincott. Also available in Kindle edition.
  • Purves, D., Augustine, G.J., Fitzpatrick, D., Hall, W.C., Lamantia, A.-S., McNamara, J.O. & White, L.E. (2012). ‘Neuroscience’, 5th edition, Sinauer. Available in electronic form; see
  • Nicholls, J.G., Martin, A.R., Fuchs, P.A., Brown, D.A., Diamond, M.E. & Weisblat, D.A. (2012). ‘From Neuron to Brain’, 5th edition, Sinauer. Available in electronic form; see

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