Biophysics of Excitable Cells (PHYS*2030)
Code and section: PHYS*2030*01
Term: Winter 2019
Instructor: Leonid Brown
Lectures and Tutorials
Monday, Wednesday, Friday 9:30 – 10:20, MCKN 031
Section 1: Thursday 8:30 – 9:20, ALEX 259
Section 2: Monday 11:30 – 12:20, MCKN 229
(NOTE: no tutorials will be held in the midterm week and the week after, weeks 7-8)
By appointment, please email Richard or Leonid.
Lecture notes, problem sets, and supplementary materials will be available on Courselink.
Course Calendar Description
An intermediate biophysics course with special emphasis on the physical properties of nerve cells and of biological transducers such as the ear and the eye. Prerequisite(s): 1.00 credits in physics (excluding PHYS*1020, PHYS*1600, PHYS*1810)
The main objectives of this course are to provide a basic understanding of the physical phenomena underlying nerve and membrane activity, and to illustrate how these phenomena are applied to different types of excitable cells.
By the end of this course students will be able to…
- Describe how physical principles influence the structure and function of excitable cells.
- Illustrate how physical phenomena can be applied to different types of excitable cells.
- Solve numerical problems using circuit analysis with various components including membrane resting and action potentials, membrane conductance and current flowing through cell membranes under different physiological conditions.
- Explain membrane and nerve activities with reference to the relevant underlying physical phenomena that give rise to them.
- Analyze how the principles of diffusion and electricity apply to biological membranes and individual nerve cells and how these result in cell resting and action potentials under different conditions.
- Apply the appropriate physical models to solve numerical problems describing sensory functions including hearing, vision, olfaction and taste.
- Generate simple circuit models to describe excitable cell membranes for excitable cells specific to the sensory systems.
- Compare and contrast the mechanisms underlying sensory functions of vision, hearing, olfaction and taste.
"Biophysics of Excitable Cells" by G.H. Renninger, U. of G., 2003.
Available from the Physics Dept. Quiz Room (SSC 1101).
"From Neuron to Brain" by J.G. Nicholls et al. (Library: QP 355.2.K83 2001)
“Principles of Neural Science" by E.R. Kandel et al. (Library: QP 355.2.P76 2013)
|Introduction to the course
Chapter 1: Membrane structure/function
Begin Chapter 2: Diffusion, Fick's Law, Permeability
|Tutorial 1 - review of mathematics|
|Continue Chapter 2: Diffusion, Fick's Law, Permeability, active transport
Begin Chapter 3: Coulomb's law, Electric potential, Work, Electric fields, Capacitance
|Continue Chapter 3: Coulomb's law, Electric potential, Work, Electric fields, Capacitance
Begin Chapter 4: Electric current, mobility, Nernst equation, Donnan equilibrium
Jan 28 - Feb 1
|Continue Chapter 4: Electric current, mobility, Nernst equation, Donnan equilibrium, equivalent circuit of a membrane, Goldman-Hodgkin-Katz equation||Tutorial 4|
|Chapter 5: Current injection; the nerve impulse, voltage clamps and ionic currents||Tutorial 5
Problem Set 1 Due on Monday
|Chapter 6: Synaptic transmission
|Tutorial 6 - Midterm Review|
|READING WEEK: Feb 18-22||NO CLASS|
Feb 25-Mar 1
|Chapter 7: Ion channels
Midterm Exam (Wednesday in class)
|Problem Set 2 Due
Midterm is on Wednesday;
|Chapter 7: Ion channels continued
Begin chapter 8: Vision, the invertebrate eye
|Continue Chapter 8: Vision, the invertebrate eye||Tutorial 7|
|Continue Chapter 8: Vision, the vertebrate eye||Problem Set 3 Due
|Chapter 9: Hearing||Tutorial 9|
|Chapter 10: Olfaction and taste
|Problem Set 4 Due on Friday
Tutorial 10 – Exam review
|Problem Sets||4 total, 8% each||32%|
|Midterm||Feb. 27 in class||28%|
|Final Exam||April 13, 8:30 am, Room: TBA||40%|
Tutorials will be held each week (except for the weeks 7 and 8). The tutorials are an important part of the course, since they provide practice and assistance with solving numerical problems.
These contain mainly numerical problem solving questions showcasing the application of physics to biological membranes and sensory systems. There will be four (4) problem sets worth 8% each and have deadlines throughout the semester:
Problem Set 1: February 4
Problem Set 2: February 25
Problem Set 3: March 18
Problem Set 4: April 5
The Problem Sets should be submitted in hard copy on the dates indicated above, by 4.30 PM, to the main physics office (MacN 207).
Wednesday, February 27th, in class. In the first half of the course, physics principles are reviewed with specific application to cell membranes. The midterm is worth 28% of the total course grade.
Saturday, April 13, 8:30-10:30 am, location TBA. In the second half of the course, sensory systems are discussed in detail with the application of physics phenomena and circuit models. The final exam is cumulative as the course builds throughout the semester. The final exam is worth 40% of the total course grade.
The penalty for late assignments is a 20% deduction per day, to a maximum of two days. You will be given ample time to complete your assignments; accordingly, you will be required to provide medical documentation if you wish to submit your assignment later than two days after the deadline.
Other Information and Policies
Course Policy regarding use of electronic devices and recording of lectures:
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Course Evaluation Information
Information about the date and time of the course evaluation will be made available during the semester.
The last date to drop one-semester courses, without academic penalty, is March 8, 2019. For regulations and procedures for Dropping Courses, see the Undergraduate Calendar.