Neuropharmacology can be defined as the study of the action mechanisms of drugs acting mainly on the nervous system. These include psychotic, anaesthetic, analgesic, sedative, hypnotic, narcotic, anti-seizure and other drugs affecting the autonomous nervous system. Although the action mechanism of these drugs is now yet well known, many of them have been used for the treatment of nervous system pathologies. Also, many pharmacological ligands are used in diagnostic imaging techniques to quantify and locate in the brain the neurotransmitters' receptors. This course aims at: i) introducing several basic concepts of neuropharmacology, i.e., promoting the understanding of the effects and of the potential of drugs that act on the central nervous system, namely in pathological situations; ii) developing the information selection and oral presentation/discussion of scientific information skills.
Cellular and molecular bases of Neuropharmacology.
The concepts of satiability, specificity, reversibility and pharmacological efficacy and of dose-dependent effects.
General organisation of the nervous system; sensorial, motor and limbic systems.
Neuronal systems organisation. Information flow in neuronal systems. Neurons and astrocytes as targets of psycho-active drugs.
Synaptic transmission and plasticity; neurotransmitters, neuromodulators and receptors. Metabolic pathways, ionotropic and metabotropic receptors as targets of psycho-active drugs.
Trophic factors: opportunities for neuronal repair.
Behavioural methodologies for the assessment of drug effects.
Molecular bases of brain diseases and neuroprotective strategies (synapses and neuro-inflammation); drug abuse effects.
Electrophysiological and neurochemical methodology for the assessment of drug action; caffeine as an example.
Cholinergic system (nicotinic receptors) and Alzheimer's disease. Clinical trials.
Generic skills to reach
. Competence in analysis and synthesis; . Competence in oral and written communication; . Competence for working in group; . Critical thinking; . Competence in understanding the language of other specialists; . Competence in organization and planning; . Knowledge of a foreign language; . Competence in autonomous learning; . Adaptability to new situations; . Creativity; (by decreasing order of importance)
Teaching hours per semester
total of teaching hours
Synthesis work thesis
Bibliography of reference
Cooper JR, Bloom FE, Roth RH (2003), The Biochemical Basis of Neuropharmacology, Oxford University Press.
Nestler EJ, Hyman SE, Malenka RC (2001), Molecular Neuropharmacology. A Foundation for Clinical Neuroscience, McGraw-Hill.
Theoretical classes to allow for the comprehension of the crucial facts on the effect and need for drugs acting on the CNS.
Hands-on classes to allow for the familiarisation with some experimental techniques.
Presentation of selected scientific papers in order to understand the dynamics of the genesis of new scientific knowledge, namely to understand the definition of a scientific question, the methodology used to tackle it and the limitations the results impose on the conclusions.
Writing of an essay in order to learn how to define and comment on the state of the art of a scientific problem.