Systems Neuroscience - Mid-Course Writing Assignment

We are looking for 8-10 pages (10 pitch/12 point, double spaced) of thoughtful writing about a topic in systems neuroscience that interests you -- a question perhaps of some controversy or broader intellectual interest along with some supporting and perhaps contrary evidence from 3-6 papers in the literature. Be sure to include some of your own original thoughts on the topic, instead of just a summary of existing literature.

Below is a list of possible topics to get you started. Feel free to find your own.

  • What are the different ways to delineate different cortical areas ? Which is the "best" way or most valid approach ?
  • Is the visual system really hierarchical ?
  • Why are there so many cortical areas ?
  • What happens to sensory cortical areas that are deprived of input from birth (e.g. blindness, deafness) ?
  • Is the thalamus "just a relay" to the cortex ?
  • How is higher order sensory information processing performed in animals without a neocortex (e.g. birds) ?
  • Does early sensory cortex participate in memory ? learning ?
  • Does primary sensory cortex participate in imagery ? (e.g. imagine what your parents look like...)
  • Among different species, what is the relationship between brain size, cortical area and intelligence ?
  • Aside from the different sources of inputs and targets for outputs, just how different is visual cortex from auditory cortex ?
  • What are the different approaches and the major obstacles in devising a visual prothesis ? (Is it conceivable that Stevie Wonder could ever "see" ?)
  • What are the differences and functional consequences of intrinsic (intracortical) versus cortico-cortical connections ?
  • What happens to color-opponent circuitry in the retina (e.g. R+ G-) in individuals missing one of these cone types (e.g. a protanope or deuteranope) ?
  • Is there significant neurogenesis in the mammalian adult brain ? Why might neurogenesis not always be in the best interest of the adult organism, even in response to injury ?
  • What are the developmental and evolutionary pressures that work to form new cortical areas in evolving species ?
  • What is the neural basis of consciousness ?