Cellular Mechanisms of Brain Function is a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) made by Carl Petersen in collaboration with the EPFL MOOC Factory.

The function of the brain is to govern behavior, and the aim of this course is to causally link biophysical mechanisms with simple behaviors studied in mice. The brain processes information through the concerted activity of many neurons, which communicate with each other through synapses organised in highly dynamic networks. The first goal of the course (Weeks 1-3) is to gain a detailed understanding of the structure and function of the fundamental building blocks of the mammalian brain, its synapses and neurons. The second goal (Weeks 4-5) is to understand neuronal networks, with specific emphasis on the interactions of excitatory glutamatergic and inhibitory GABAergic neurons. The third goal (Weeks 6-7) is to place neuronal network function in the context of sensory processing ultimately leading to behavioral decisions and motor output.

All videos, graphic files and powerpoint files are also freely available from Zenodo, doi: 10.5281/zenodo.3974482,

Lecture Notes:

BOOC lecture notes (Download 42MB pdf) were prepared in collaboration with EPFL Press.

YouTube Lectures:

Week 1
1.1 Introduction
1.2 The cell membrane
1.3 Ion channels
1.4 Membrane potential
1.5 Cable properties

Week 2
2.1 Voltage-gated channels
2.2 Voltage-gating kinetics
2.3 The action potential
2.4 Action potential propagation
2.5 Whole-cell recordings

Week 3
3.1 Synaptic transmission
3.2 Neurotransmitter release
3.3 Presynaptic dynamics
3.4 Presynaptic modulation
3.5 Electron microscopy

Week 4
4.1 Glutamate receptors
4.2 Postsynaptic potentials
4.3 Glutamatergic circuits
4.4 Synaptic plasticity
4.5 Dendritic spines

Week 5
5.1 GABAergic inhibition
5.2 Inhibitory synaptic conductances
5.3 Benzodiazepines
5.4 GABAergic projections
5.5 Neocortical inhibition

Week 6
6.1 Brain function and behavior
6.2 Man and mouse
6.3 Imaging the brain in action
6.4 In vivo electrophysiology
6.5 Controlling brain function

Week 7
7.1 Sensorimotor interactions
7.2 Sensory perception
7.3 Learning
7.4 Brain dysfunction
7.5 Concluding remarks

Your feedback with specific suggestions for improvements is very welcome – please email Carl Petersen.