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How the Brain Works: Disorders  

Natalia Caporale, PhD If you are fascinated and curious about the human brain and how it works, this course is for you. It will give an overview of our current understanding of several neurological disorders. The course will provide an introduction to brain function and then jump to discuss what we know about Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease, Schizophrenia and Depression. While we won’t be able to find solutions to these problems, we will discuss what is known, what the challenges to treatment are and some of the novel strategies being explored. Some history of neuroscience will be incorporated, as well as case studies from Oliver Sack’s books to exemplify phenomena and TED talks on specific topics. Note about the style of the course: Due to this instructor’s enjoyment of student driven focus and questions, this course will not only consist of the instructor “transmitting” knowledge; but will encourage questions, dialog and exploration. Readings will be provided to supplement class presentations. Meeting 1: Introduction to the Course and the Brain Gross anatomy of the nervous system with special interest in areas that tend to underlie cognitive disorders. Promote attendees to present themselves and their interests and objectives for the course. Introduce a short story (1 page) form Oliver Sack’s (“Eyes Right”) that introduces Visual Agnosia. Discussion as to how this must feel and approaches to its treatment. Meeting 2: Diseases of the Basal Ganglia Parkinson’s Disease. History, causes and current therapies from a biological perspective. Huntington’s Chorea: History, causes and current therapies from a biological perspective. Discussion to compare across the two diseases. Meeting 3: Disorders of wiring & Schizophrenia Epilepsy: History, causes and current therapies from a biological perspective. Schizophrenia: History, causes and current therapies from a biological perspective. PBS video on Lobotomy and its history. Meeting 4: Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. This meeting will be focused on the history, controversies and current therapies for Alzheimer’s disease from a biological stand point. Learning and memory in the aging brain will also be discussed and compared to that in the young brain. Meeting 5: Stroke, Traumatic Brain Injury and Recovery The effects of stroke and TBI will be discussed and compared. Techniques and controversies over recovery strategies will be presented. Depression and Anxiety Disorders Introduction to depression and anxiety, with focus on what is known about the neural basis of these disorders. Discussion of current treatments, challenges and remaining questions. Natalia Caporale, PhD is an Assistant Teaching Professor (LPSOE) at UC Davis in the Department of Neurobiology, Physiology and Behavior. Originally from Argentina, where she did her undergraduate in Biological Sciences at the University of Buenos Aires, she came to the US to conduct her graduate students at UC Berkeley, where she obtained her Doctorate in Neuroscience. She then conducted research at UCSF and became an adjunct lecturer at SFSU and UC Berkeley, as well as teaching science classes at OLLI. She is a CAMPOS scholar at UC Davis, committed to the success of women in science in academics and her current research focuses on the assessment of neuroscience-based and pedagogically rooted strategies to improve student self-efficacy and success in college, with a focus on minority students, students with mental health issues and transfer students.