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NEUR20050 Principles of Neuroscience UCD Assignment Example

Neuroscience is the scientific study of the nervous system. It covers a wide range of topics, from the function of individual cells and synapses to How learning occurs and disorders of the nervous system. Despite its breadth, neuroscience has principles that hold across different levels of organization and species. In this post, we’ll explore three such principles: neuron number, synaptic plasticity, and neural networks. By understanding these principles, you’ll be better equipped to understand how your brain works – both when it’s functioning normally and when it’s not.

Assignment Activity 1: Development of the nervous system.

The nervous system develops during the third and fourth weeks of embryonic development. Nerve cells (neurons) start as a small cluster of cells in the embryo. These cells will then go on to divide and grow, forming the neural tube.

As the neural tube grows, it begins to fold over on itself, forming a groove in the center called the neural crest. This is where most of the nerve cells in the body will come from. The neural crest will then divide into two parts: one part will become the spinal cord and brain, while the other part will become all of the peripheral nerves in the body.

The final step in nerve cell development is when these cells attach to their target tissues. This process is called synaptogenesis, and it occurs during prenatal development. It is also possible for newborn animals’ nervous systems to continue developing throughout the animal’s lifetime, through the process of learning new tasks.

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Assignment Activity 2: Electrical signaling in nerve cells and synaptic transmission.

Electrical signaling in nerve cells is mediated by voltage-gated ion channels. When an electrical signal travels down a nerve cell, it opens these ion channels, and positively charged ions (such as sodium) flow into the cell. This influx of positively charged ions causes the membrane potential of the cell to change, and this change in membrane potential then triggers the opening of more ion channels, which propagates the electrical signal down the length of the nerve cell.

Synaptic transmission is mediated by neurotransmitters, which are released from a neuron at a presynaptic terminal and then bind to receptors on a postsynaptic neuron. This binding of neurotransmitters to receptors initiates a series of events that ultimately leads to the opening of ion channels in the postsynaptic neuron.

Assignment Activity 3: Sensory receptors and special senses.

Sensory receptors are neurons that respond to stimuli in the environment. There are five special senses: sight, smell, taste, touch, and hearing. Each of these senses is activated by a specific type of stimulus.

All senses have two parts: an afferent pathway (also called the sensory pathway), which transmits information from the sensory receptor to the central nervous system (CNS), and an efferent pathway (also called the motor pathway), which transmits information from the CNS to a target organ to produce a response.

The somatosensory system is the sense of touch, pain, temperature, and proprioception (the position of body parts in space). Somatosensory neurons are activated when skin is stretched, which stimulates mechanoreceptors. Activation of these receptors causes action potentials in nearby nerve fibers.

The visual system, or the sense of sight, is made up of three special senses: photoreception (when light enters through the retina), chemoreception (when color and light intensity are perceived), and phototaxis (when the eyes move to bring an object into focus).

The olfactory system is responsible for the sense of smell. When molecules bind to receptors on the dendrites of olfactory neurons, this causes action potentials that travel up the olfactory nerve pathway to the brain.

The gustatory system is responsible for the sense of taste. When molecules bind to receptors on the dendrites of gustatory neurons, this causes action potentials that travel up the facial nerve pathway to the brain.

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Assignment Activity 4: Motor and higher cortical function.

The motor system is responsible for muscle movement. The pyramidal and extrapyramidal tracts carry efferent signals from the brain down to the spinal cord, where they cause specific groups of muscles to contract or relax.

The higher cortical function consists of cognition (perception, memory, learning), language (in humans), spatial reasoning (in humans), and voluntary movement. The higher cortical function is both innate (in other words, genetically programmed) and learned.

Assignment Activity 5: Introduction to some diseases of the nervous system.

Multiple sclerosis is a disease that affects the myelin sheath, which provides insulation for nerve cells. This disruption in the insulation of nerve cells causes sensory and motor neurons to be damaged, resulting in muscle weakness and paralysis.

Parkinson’s disease involves a loss of dopaminergic neurons, which causes dopamine levels in the brain to decrease. This decrease in dopamine levels results in symptoms of tremor, stiffness, and slowness.

Alzheimer’s disease is a degenerative disorder that causes memory loss and cognitive decline. This progressive decline in cognition is due to the disruption of synaptic connections between neurons, which causes a loss of brain function as more connections are destroyed.

Huntington’s disease is an inherited disorder that results in motor dysfunction, dementia, and psychiatric problems. The genetic mutation which causes Huntington’s disease impairs the production of GABA receptors on cells in the basal ganglia.

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