This exam is a take-home, open-book exam. While you should feel free to consult any source you wish, the material you need to answer the questions is contained within your class notes, your text, and the outside readings. You should not discuss specific answers to the questions with others, but you should feel free to discuss general concepts and ideas related to the material. You must answer Question #1 and two other questions of your choice. Your responses should be no longer than 4 (double-spaced) typed pages per question. The completed exam is due by 11:30 am, Friday, December 18th.
1, Weary of the
electrophysiological and molecular reductionism of modern neuroscience,
you retreat to the rain forests of Guatemala to identify an exotic new
flavor for Ben and Jerry's ice cream. In your quest for gustatory
novelty you chance upon a strain of fruit flies that is obsessively attracted
to the fruit of the little known Calmodulinus crebsiensis tree. Following
ingestion of the fruit, the flies display a range of astonishing and bizarre
behaviors: a wildly enhanced memory of the fruit's location and a maniacal
desire to obtain ever increasing amounts of the fruit. You decide to test
its efficacy in mammals. In the hours and days following ingestion,
your long-term memory and desire for the fruit increases. Armed with
new intellectual powers and aware that it is now within your grasp to become
the Bill Gates of pharmaco-botanists, you decide to identify the substance
and its mechanism of action. You must:
[a] Propose a reasonable mechanism for its mode of action based on the current state of knowledge in the field of memory and learning.
[b] Describe a strategy for identifying the substance.
[c] Account for the fact that the substance also possesses an addictive quality.
2. Observing the wildlife of the rain forests, you recall that It has been estimated that humans share approximately 99% of their genes (particularly those expressed in the brain) with higher primates. Yet there appear to be enormous differences in cognitive function. How does one account for this apparent discrepancy?
3. Homesick and yearning for a "White Christmas" your thoughts drift to Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol." After a few seconds of contemplation of this traditional holiday classic, it occurs to you that, having just completed neurobiology, you are now able to (a) explain Scrooge's emotional state as well as his "nocturnal visitations" from a modern, molecular neurobiological point of view, and (b) do the same for Tiny Tim's affliction as well as (in some versions of the story) his sudden recovery. Briefly describe your hypotheses regarding the neurological basis of these afflictions.
4. You sink into a deep depression, but fortunately, you come fortified with modern pharmacological treatments. Following a course of Prozac, you feel somewhat better, but not quite yourself. Reminded of a common T-shirt logo (shown below), you have lost interest in sex, food, and, above all, learning more neurobiology! Explain your reaction to this drug as precisely as possible.
5. Desperate for relief from recurrent depression, back pain, and allergies to rain forest pollen, you finally seek the services of the local shaman who treats you with an unknown concoction. Although initially skeptical, within a few days your symptioms, are, to your surprise greatly relieved. When you ask the shaman for the list of "active ingredients," she replies with a smile: water and extract from the bark of the C. Prostaglandiensis tree. Back home, wondering whether the gap between folk medicine and modern neuropharmacology is as wide as it once appeared, you speculate on the potential mechanisms of the efficacy of the shaman's potion and how you would test whether it was a "placebo" or not.