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Nervous System and Senses (TB 4)

The nervous system and the sensory organs have the fundamental task of perceiving changes in the external environment and the internal milieu, integrating them and, if necessary, reacting to them so that the organism can adapt to changing environmental conditions. In this block you will learn about the human nervous system and sensory organs in all their range and complexity.

Building on the knowledge gained in The Human Body: Biology of Movement, we now deepen our knowledge of neurons and the peripheral nervous system and learn about the functioning of synapses, the neuromuscular system, and reflexes and cranial nerves. Important basics of neuroanatomy that we teach in this block include the basic features of brain development as well as the structure of the skull and the division of the brain with the meninges and cerebrospinal fluid spaces and the blood supply and drainage. As an important preparation for the other topic blocks, students learn the basic features of the autonomic nervous system and the basic principles of neuroendocrine control circuits. They learn the importance of subcortical CNS sections (spinal cord, brainstem, cerebellum, diencephalon, telencephalic nuclei) for maintaining body homeostasis as well as for controlling unconscious responses. An essential component in this block is the sensory systems, such as the visual system, the auditory and vestibular systems, the olfactory and gustatory systems. In this context, we deal with basic physical questions, such as what is sound? What is light? In addition, we provide insight into neuroscientific methods. Finally, we deal with the central processing of the motor system but also with the control of complex behavioral patterns.

Important topics include:

  • Perception, attention: why do we usually focus our attention on the most obvious feature?
  • Addictions: What role does the reward system play?
  • Memory: What is the role of the hippocampus?
  • Emotions: What brain functions are altered by depression?

The relation to medical practice takes an important place in all these topics. Our students learn about a range of neurological and psychiatric disorders, including neuromuscular disease, cranial nerve disease and sensory system disorders, stroke and intracranial hemorrhage, depression, Parkinson's disease, dementia, and brain tumors. Thus, by the end of the topic block, they will have a comprehensive knowledge of the structure and function of the nervous system and sensory organs and will be able to apply this knowledge in a clinical context.

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