An advanced graduate course on the pathology of nervous system disorders, offered every other spring

Course Director

Chris Weihl, MD, PhD

When: Tuesdays 5-7p
Where: Farrell Learning & Teaching Center (FLTC)

About the Course

Course Description

This is an advanced graduate course on the pathology of nervous system disorders. This course is primarily intended to acquaint Neuroscience graduate students with a spectrum of neurological diseases, and to consider how advanced neuroscientific approaches may be applied to promoting recovery in the brain.

Topics will be presented by Washington University faculty members and include: neurooncology, stroke, retinal disease, perinatal brain injury, neurodegenerative disorders, neuroinflammation, epilepsy, and psychiatric disorders.

The class will meet for 2 hours each week. Each session will be led by a faculty guest with expertise in a specific neurological or psychiatric disease. In the first hour, the speaker will discuss clinical manifestations and pathophysiology. Where possible, the clinical presentation will be supplemented with a patient demonstration or videotape. After a thirty minute break for pizza and soda, the second hour will follow a journal club format. Two or three students will review current papers assigned by the speaker or course director.


The class is open to advanced PhD and MD/PhD graduate students in the Neuroscience program. First-year Neuroscience graduate students may enroll only with permission from the advisory committee. Graduate students in other programs, faculty, upper-level undergraduates, resident physicians, and postdoctoral fellows are invited to enroll if space allows with prior arrangement with the course director. Regardless of course status (credit, no credit, audit, non-student etc), every participant is expected to present papers, contribute to discussion, and attend all lectures.


Introductory neuroscience course at the graduate or medical school level.


Two credit hours. There is no lab or discussion section. Pass/fail or audit only by prior arrangement.


No required text. Two papers will be assigned for review prior to each session. Each student will present at least two or three papers during the course. Grades will be determined on the basis of presentations and class participation.

Journal Club format

Instructions for journal club presentations

We have 30 minutes for each paper. There will be lots of discussion so your part of the presentation must take no more than 15 minutes. Time limits will be strictly enforced! The goal is a critical review (see below).  Identify strengths and weaknesses.

Do not attempt to show every figure!  Choose the few key figures which illustrate the main points of the paper, or which demonstrate an important method, innovation, or problem.  Please look at the suggested outline below; presentation of the experimental findings is only part of your job.  Be sure to allow adequate time for your introduction and discussion.

You’ll be reviewing papers outside your area of expertise.  If there’s a topic, method, or result you don’t understand, get more information before your presentation. Feel free to ask another student for help or review the presentation before the class.  If you’re still confused, find another expert or ask the guest speaker.  Remember, most of this material will be new to your audience as well.

Your presentation should be in PowerPoint for Windows, using the PC and projector provided in the classroom.  Bring your PowerPoint presentation on a USB flash memory drive.  You may bring your own laptop only if absolutely necessary; please come 15  min before class to make sure it’s working!

Please use good graphics.  The text must be visible from the back of the room.  In general this means no more than 7 lines of text or >= 20 pt fonts.  Don’t just type out your presentation. Enlarge figures and tables to fill the page.  Practice explaining each figure (what’s on each axis?) before stating the results.

It’s fine to use images (graphics, schematics, etc.) obtained from the web or another paper. You must indicate the source of each image (other than the paper you are reviewing) on the same page.  If you use text from any source, enclose it in quotes and show the appropriate citation.

Suggested Presentation Outline

1. Set up the issue; what is the intellectual context or paradigm within which the study was conceived?

2. What is the hypothesis? Consider whether the hypothesis is reasonable in the above context.

3. What is the experimental design? Is the design reasonable? Is it feasible? Does the design test the hypothesis? Is the model appropriate for the disease under consideration?

4. What are the main findings? Are the data depicted in a straightforward fashion? Are the statistics appropriate? What are the secondary findings?

5. What is your interpretation of the data? What is the author’s interpretation? If these differ, is one interpretation more reasonable than the other? Does the author’s interpretation incorporate the findings in their entirety or in a selective fashion? Does the interpretation make sense in the present paradigm? Or does it challenge conventional thinking, etc.

6. What would be the next important experiment to confirm, extend, refute, the findings?