Catalogue 2018 - 2019

NSCI 381 Evolution of Nervous Systems


3 cr.


NSCI 212 and NSCI 267 (concurrent enrollment)

Course Description

As one of just four categories of tissue persistent across the great phylogeny of animals, nervous tissue likely offered our kingdom notable fitness to adapt to ecological changes throughout the nearly billion years of animal evolution. This course will survey theories on the origins of electrical tissue and follow tissue specialization from its departure from a putative ancestral and contractile tissue through the arrangement of electrical cells into progressively more complex systems. We will examine the efficacy of several of these nervous system designs (e.g. distributed networks, flanking longitudinal connectives, and centralized nervous systems). We will engage the challenging problem of appreciating elegance in solving ecological problems ('selective pressures') with simple neural systems, and why more complex systems may have provided some benefit ('fitness'). Lastly, the contributions of several investigators of neural evolution including DuJardin, Cajal, and Gould will be considered.