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Academic year 2020/2021

Course ID
Prof. Silvia De Marchis (Coordinator)
Degree course
Cellular and Molecular Biology
1st year
Teaching period
Semester 2
Course disciplinary sector (SSD)
BIO/06 - anatomia comparata e citologia
Lessons optional and laboratories mandatory
Type of examination
Written and interview (optional)
Basic knowledges of developmental biology and citology/histology of the nervous system.

Sommario del corso


Course objectives

This teaching contributes to the learning objectives included into the Neurobiological curriculum of the Master in Cellular and Molecular Biology - Biologia Cellulare e Molecolare, providing knowledge and applicative abilities. 

The main objective is to guide students to understand the genesis of the complexity of the nervous system, by developing research skills and critical readings of scientific papers dealing with different aspects of neural development. Through the analysis of the most recent literature based on different animal and in vitro models, the students will acquire knowledge on the principles and  cellular/molecular mechanisms  underlying normal development of the nervous system, as well as the neurobiological  bases of neurodevelopmental disorders. 


Results of learning outcomes


  • identify  fundamental concepts in developmental biology 
  • use appropriate terminology in developmental biology
  • explain the principles of  neural induction (molecular mechanisms and conservation among metazoa)
  • associate specific genes to acquisition of regional identity in the developing nervous system
  • define what is an organizing center in developing brain and provide examples
  • describe the cellular/molecular mechanisms underlying  neural circuit development
  • identify the features and potential of neural stem/progenitors cells and define their regulation by cell-autonomous vs non autonomous factors.
  • link specific cellular/molecular dysfunctions to neurodevelopmental disorders


  • identify the best  model systems to address specific scientific questions in developmental neuroscience 
  • grasp the core concept of a scientific paper 
  • find and elaborate data related to gene expression/distribution in the developing nervous system starting from public availabe resources (i.e. Allen Brain Atlas)
  • find possible experimental approaches and choose the right technology to address specific questions in the field of developmental neuroscence
  • write a research project 


  • interpretation and discussion of scientific data.
  • peer revision of other students tasks 


  • presentation of scientific papers and/or active participation to scientific discussion following lectures and seminars. 
  • presentation of a research project.
  • writing of short reports on scientific papers.


  • learning skills will be fostered through activities with peers working in group 

Course delivery

During the course, the students will be weekly guided to understand specific topics related to the main questions and established knowledge in the field of neurodevelopmental research through in classroom lectures and seminars, interactive group work, discussion time.  Readings of scientific articles and online activities on moodle platform will be assigned to the students and monitored by the teacher. 

Due the COVID-19 health emergency, for the academic year 2020-21 lessons and all other live activities will be both delivered in a classroom (except in case of sanitary restriction) and over the Internet in live streaming through a WebEx Virtual Room; lessons and seminars will be also recorded and made accessible on the Moodle teaching platform, together with all other teaching material

Learning assessment methods

Tasks and activities during the course will be evaluated and the overall engagement of the students will weight 30% of the final grade.

Final exam (70% of the final grade) will be on the moodle platform: it will consist in both closed and open questions based on topics covered in lectures, assigned readings, and online activities, followed by an oral examination. This exam will be either in class or, if the COVID-19 health emergency will persist, in remote modality by connecting in Virtual Room (WebEx).

IMPORTANT: Early registration to the e-learning platform (moodle) is mandatory !



This year, a module of the course will be given by the Visiting Professor Paolo Giacobini (Inserm U1172), an internationally recognized specialist in the field of neural development, and expert in the development of the GnRH system in rodents and humans.


Introduction and basic knowledge in developmental biology; animal models, in vitro models and technologies for the study of nervous system development; neural induction, derivation of the nervous system in different metazoa, origin, role and molecular nature of the neural inducer; neural patterning, Hox genes and antero-posterior axis, dorso-ventral polarity of the neural tube; Cell proliferation and migration in the developing nervous tissue; Neural cell specification, determination and differentiation; Axon growth and guidance; Cerebral cortex development; Adult neurogenesis; Development of GnRH neurons, the full repertoire of molecular cues regulating their migratory process and the precise targeting of these cells to the hypothalamus. Particular emphasis will be given to new emerging technologies that can be applied synergistically to study any cell-tissue system development, such as single cell profiling, spatial transcriptomics, 2D mass cytometry, cyclic immunofluorescence and 3D imaging of optically cleared organs.

Suggested readings and bibliography


There is no specific textbook for this course. For basic and general reference, see Development of the Nervous System (D.H. Sanes, T.A. Reh, W. A. Harris) Academic Press - Elsevier, 4th Ed.

Specific scientific Articles and Reviews will be uploaded on the Moodle course website.

Websites containing support videos, texts, images and other materials are also indicated.


Class schedule

Lessons: dal 05/03/2019 to 14/06/2019

Notes: See the timetable at the Class Schedule Page

Last update: 27/10/2020 14:35
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