Fine-Tuning the Synapse: Synaptic Functions and Dysfunction

Bright fluorescent green jagged lines branching off of a central point.

Neurons and associated dendritic spines in the brain of a songbird (image by Todd Roberts, Duke University Medical Center, National Science Foundation Multimedia Gallery).


MIT Course Number


As Taught In

Fall 2014



Cite This Course

Course Description

Course Description

The synapse is the fundamental element by which neurons transmit, receive and transform information in the brain. Synapses are functionally diverse, and a single neuron in the brain receives up to 10,000 synapses. Given the enormous complexity of the nervous system, how does a neuron integrate, encode and retrieve information? How is information processed beyond a single cell within the context of a neuronal circuit? Fundamental synaptic mechanisms underlie expression of higher-order brain functions, such as learning and memory, and cognition. Conversely, the disruption of synaptic processes contributes to the development of neurological disorders. In this course, students will learn to critically analyze the primary research literature to explore how synapses are studied and to understand how synapses integrate information to perform higher-order behavior.

This course is one of many Advanced Undergraduate Seminars offered by the Biology Department at MIT. These seminars are tailored for students with an interest in using primary research literature to discuss and learn about current biological research in a highly interactive setting. Many instructors of the Advanced Undergraduate Seminars are postdoctoral scientists with a strong interest in teaching.

Related Content

Abhishek Banerjee, and Richard Cho. 7.346 Fine-Tuning the Synapse: Synaptic Functions and Dysfunction. Fall 2014. Massachusetts Institute of Technology: MIT OpenCourseWare, License: Creative Commons BY-NC-SA.

For more information about using these materials and the Creative Commons license, see our Terms of Use.