Syllabus 2010


Fall 2010


Office Hours



J. Timothy Cannon, Ph.D.

Tues 3:00-3:50                                   Wed 11:00-11:50
Thurs 11:00-11:50
AMH 204

941- 4266 (Office)  (


Teaching Assistants:

Tiffany R. Perry (

Justin Steinman (


1. Breedlove, S.M., Rosenzweig, M.R.,  & Watson, N.V. (2010). Biological Psychology 6th Ed: An Introduction to Behavioral, Cognitive, and Clinical Neuroscience, Sinauer Associates, Inc.

2. Diamond, M.C. & Scheibel, A.B. (1986) The Human Brain Coloring Book,  Collins.

If you can catch me, day or night, I'll be more than happy to chat (I actually get paid to do what I'd do for free--talk).

This course will provide a broad survey of the research orientations and findings in the major areas of behavioral neuroscience. We will begin with an examination of the fundamental aspects of neuroscience and build to the consideration of highly integrated behaviors. The human brain contains about 100 billion neurons. Each of these make between 1 thousand and 10 thousand connections, or synapses. It' s been calculated that the number of potential brain states the permutations and combinations of synaptic elements can create is higher than the number of atoms in the known universe. Parsimony indicates that this internal complexity gives rise to every element of our loves, fears, morality, aesthetic choices, religious feelings, and personality; we have quite a bit to cover!

In order to receive appropriate accommodations, students with disabilities must register with the Center for Teaching and Learning Excellence and provide relevant documentation. Students should contact Mary Ellen Pichiarello (Extension 4039) or Jim Muniz (Extension 4218), 5th floor, St. Thomas Hall, for an appointment.


You are responsible for all announcements made in class, you may be tested on any lecture material, and you (or someone dear to your heart) are paying a bunch of money so you could be here. I feel no need to impose additional contingencies for missed lectures. My procedures for dealing with missed exams are described below


    Read Ahead Quizzes

This course incorporates Read Ahead Quizzes.  You will be given light and lively quizzes almost every week that are intended to assess whether you have read each chapter at least once.  They will consist of 8 terms contained in that chapter that are mixed with 12 fake items.  You simply have to identify 5 of the 8 real items (2 points each - What could be simpler??).  With rare exceptions (see schedule) quizzes will be taken during the first 5-7 min of Tuesday classes (don't be late).  The lowest score for quizzes covering chapters for each exam will be dropped and the remaining quiz points will be added to the total points earned on each exam before scores on that exam are curved.

      Chapter/Lecture Questions

As you read each chapter and experience each lecture,  I'd like you to share anything that is causing confusion. There will be a forum-thread for each week and you should share what topics require additional attention by 5pm each Sunday so I can adjust my lectures to be of the greatest value.  

Students are required to read all such postings.  There will be a 1.0 overall course grade reduction for failure to remain current.  I will use postings on these threads to review material from the preceding week in the first class of a week to allow us all to be on the same page for the Weekly Quiz that will occur in the second class period of each week (see below).

Assigned Readings

Unless specifically assigned, you will not be tested on information that is contained ONLY in a figure or table.


The results of each third of the course (see below) will be "curved" (see below) on a 4.67 point scale. Typically, the top grade on each defines "4.67." Chance performance (that which could be earned merely by stabbing a pencil at the answer sheet) defines "0.0". For each block, additional raw scores will be announced that determine "1.0", "2.0", "2.67", "3.67", and "4.67". You can calculate your precise curved score by interpolation. For example, if 40= 2.67, 45 = 3.67, and you earned a score of 44 on Block I, then your curved test score would be 3.47 (that is 2.67 + 4/5 = 3.47).  If you are unsure about what your grade is, or question if you calculated it correctly, come visit.

NOTE: My curve is not based on number of people, rather, on percentage of earned points. Therefore, there is no limit to the proportion of students who can earn A's (or any other grade).

At the end of the course, your final grade will be converted from averaged number to letter grade based upon the numeric values of letters in calculating the GPA. For example, a B+ = 3.33 and an A- = 3.67; therefore, the A- range would be from 3.67 to 3.99. A grade of A would be earned for a course average of 4.0 and above. The 3.47 you received in the earlier example would be a B+, leaving you .2 below the A- range and .14 above the B+ range.

This grading procedure may at first glance seem a bit complex, but it is to your benefit. You know precisely what grade you have at any point in the course--you don't have "about a B+," rather, you have a 3.47. Once a block is completed and graded, you've got a grade that you can put in the bank, not an approximate value that may shift based on a final "mystery" grade distribution that won't come into existence until the end of the semester. Knowledge is power!

       Numbers to Letters

        For each exam you will receive a grade that ranges from "0.0" to "4.67", such as the 3.47 mentioned above. You can convert these numeric grades to letter grades using the following table.  On the table below, a 3.47 equates to a grade within the B+ range:


4.00 to 4.67

A -

3.67 to 3.99


3.33 to 3.66


3.00 to 3.32


2.67 to 2.99


2.33 to 2.66


2.00 to 2.32


1.67 to 1.99


1.33 to 1.66


1.00 to 1.32


0.00 to .99

Overall Testing Procedure

In addition to the Read Ahead quizzes, there will comprehensive Weekly Quizzes, and no semester exams.  There will be a comprehensive final. All students must take the final in its entirety. Your overall grade will be defined by the quizzes and final--67% for the combined Read Ahead and Weekly Quizzes that define each block grade and 33% for the final.  There will be no extra credit assignments, nor will there be any make ups for quizzes of either type. Should you have trouble in any 'block' of the course, the challenge procedure outlined below will allow you to replace this grade.  You will be allowed to drop your lowest Read Ahead and Weekly Quiz in each block of the course.

Weekly quizzes (not read ahead) and the final will consist of: text figures, your reproductions of drawings, multiple choice, fill-in, and short answer essay questions drawn from both lecture and ALL assigned readings. Students should NEVER be tempted to overlook the latter source of information - books are your friends my friend.  

       Rolling Thunder

There will be a comprehensive component to quizzes. As the semester progresses, I will identify material that is so fundamental to the course that it may appear on every subsequent Weekly Quiz, I call it "Rolling Thunder."  By the end of the course, this fundamental information should be second nature to you.  The net effect of this Rolling Thunder cumulative testing procedure is that it will make the overall course much easier because you will remain fluent in the basic concepts necessary to understand all course content. It should also make the final examination much easier to prepare for.  Trust me, you'll like it!

Final Examination

The final examination will be divided into 3 major sections. Three of the sections will correspond to materials covered in each of the 3 semester blocks. Your curved grade for the final will be defined by the total number of correct answers on the test overall, regardless of the sections in which the points are earned. In addition, curved scores will be calculated for each of the three subsections of the final that dealt with blocks of semester material. These scores are used for "The Challenge Option," see below.

      Challenge Option

You may opt to challenge (i.e., replace) one and only one semester block grade with the appropriate curved score from the final. The semester exam block and final sub-part grades will be compared and the HIGHER will be used in calculating your course grade. The challenge option cannot lower your score. If you have missed a semester exam, you must use your challenge to replace this grade.


Regardless of pre-quiz snow-induced class cancellations, if a class is held on the day of a scheduled quiz, the quiz will be given on that day and the assigned reading for that quiz will NOT be reduced.  If classes are canceled on a quiz day, the quiz will be given in the next available class period again without any change in assigned material.


Read Ahead and Weekly Quizzes -- 67%

Final Examination -- 33%


      Coloring Book

You will be asked to complete pages in your Human Brain Coloring Book throughout the semester. Check the syllabus for dates to have these done by. Do not wait until the last minute to begin these, some of the pages require tedious work. Oh, and of course, prepare for these on the quizzes.

     In The News

In alternate weeks (assigned alphabetically), you should find a link to a news story on the Web that relates to some aspect of Neuroscience.  There will be threads on the Discussion Forum for your link postings.  Please include a very brief (2-3 sentence) description of each link.  These postings will be considered part of class participation and we will discuss a few each week.  Postings should be made before noon each Friday.  Failure to meet these deadlines for posting links will result in a reduction in relevant exam grade by .2 for each class day.

Every student should read every posting.  Google allows for easy checking of compliance with this requirement.  DO NOT POST SOMETHING THAT HAS ALREADY BEEN POSTED!!!! This means you have not read previous postings and you will be asked publicly to repost. Failure to remain current on the postings will result in a 1.0 overall course grade reduction.

      That Should Have Been in the Block Questions

No exam is perfect and I hate to think that you've labored to master some difficult concept only to find that the concept doesn't/didn't show up on an exam.

Within 48 hours after each exam, you will put in the appropriate discussion board thread on the Google group a fully formed question (multiple choice questions should include options) that you wish had been asked. Include the correct answer and relevant text page(s), if appropriate. I'll browse through the above questions and use as many as possible on relevant exams. Of course, your peers can also browse through them, knowing that some of these questions will be on the exams.Failure to meet these deadlines will result in a reduction in relevant exam grade by .2 for each class day.



OPTION #1 :Kids Judge

On Saturday, November 5th , the University will sponsor its eighth Kids Judge Neuroscience event.  Girl Scouts will come to campus for a festive day of (typically) hands on presentations relating to neuroscience.  Kids Judge is partially funded by the Northeastern Pennsylvania Area Health Education Center NEPA AHEC).   This event won first place in the Education category in the Northeastern Pennsylvania Nonprofit & Community Assistance Center Awards for 2005.  The Girl Scouts will grade your presentations (The grades they assign to you, however, don't affect your grade; it's all good fun.) and the winning presentation will receive an award at the end of the day.  Individuals, or teams of up to 5 students, may prepare these presentations and related web support materials in lieu of the following individual assignment.  You must let me know if you will be doing Kids Judge by October 7th.  There are a limited number of slots available for Kids Judge! so indicate your intention to participate early to ensure you have a slot.  

OPTION #2: Annotated Bibliography with Reactions

During the course of the semester you will choose, or be assigned, a topic upon which to prepare either a web page, or a posting on the Google Discussion Form, that presents an annotated bibliography (at least 12) of mostly original journal research (not review) articles (not articles from the "popular press").  To be safe, when searching for these, use Google Scholar.  This will lead you to the type of articles that are used in textbooks.  It may include a sprinkling of annotated links from the World Wide Web.  After each annotation, write a brief summary of your "reaction" to this article.  These bibliographies should evolve during the semester and must be complete by 3:00 pm on Friday, November 5th. You should retain complete copies of all journal articles and bring them to our meeting. After submitting your bibliography on the relevant Google Group thread, you will choose a 20 minute period from those I have posted on the Web to schedule a non-threatening collegial discussion of the research area in which you have developed some expertise.  These times will be scheduled after Kids Judge.  

    To maximize your enjoyment and educational experience, choose a topic that interests you. Typically (but it's not a rule), your first citation will be chosen from those referenced in your text. Be certain to have your topic and key reference approved prior to beginning any substantial library work.  This is true even if the key reference does not come from the text.

    You will not be responsible for obtaining any articles through inter-library loan. You must make use of the library's databases to obtain some of your citations. If needed, I'd be happy to help you get started with your computerized literature searches, just ask.  Again, these citations should not come from a popular news source or any publication that you could purchase in an airport or bookstore.  The are not to be news reports relating to original research - they are to be the original research itself.

     Grading of these assignments:

These assignments will be graded on a pass/no pass basis (not passing doesn't happen, but it would result in a lowering of your overall course grade by 1.0). For those of you who don't know how to create a web page, help will be provided by the TA or myself.  You'll probably be using Google Documents or this process, so it'll be mindless.