The goal of your literature review paper will be to focus on a specific area of neuroscience research. You will then write a clear and concise literature review on a specific topic. This will require students to make use of the library’s data bases and resources in order to obtain the necessary journal articles to complete the task. While I will be providing students with a reading list of some key journal articles that could be used when preparing this assignment, I still strongly encourage students to go to the library or online to find additional scientific journal articles to supplement their work.
Note: You may only use peer reviewed scientific journal articles in your literature review. You may also use some scientific review papers as well. “Do not” use information or any material obtained from www.howstuffworks, Wikipedia, Dr. Phil etc…, these are not scientific journals.
In general, the literature review paper will be from 10 to 12 typed pages in length, doubled spaced, and contain an appropriate reference section after the conclusion. You will be expected to follow the APA writing style and referencing format. It is generally a good idea to prepare an outline for yourself before you start writing your literature review. This will keep you on track and help you organize your ideas in a concise and logical fashion.
The review should begin with a brief introduction outlining or introducing your topic. This should then be followed by a thesis statement that clearly spells out what the goal of the literature review will be and what topics it will discuss. The body of the literature review or essay should; (i) contain the main points or statements you want to make, (ii) discussthe topics as well as the the relevant and vital research evidence that supports your statements and claims, (iii) integrate the research evidence from field you are writing about, and (iv) mention any shortcomings or gaps in the research that need to be addressed.
The first sentence in each new paragraph should either be used to introduce a new topic or it should somehow add extra research evidence to support statements made in a previous paragraph. With literature reviews or short essays it is always a good idea to get to the point of what a certain group of researchers did and what they found quickly and concisely. Then you may add a few details to expand your discussion about the research findings but remember to stay focused and don’t stray too far off the main topics. You want your writing style to be crisp and direct with some supplementary facts or research evidence that supports your leading sentence. At times it doesn’t hurt to elaborate or explain something in a bit more detail or provide a bit more background information to the reader if you want to expand on an idea or integrate research findings a little more. The closing sentence of each paragraph should summarize and close an avenue of discussion. Alternatively, the closing sentence of a paragraph can also be used as a link to provide even more interesting information about the research findingyou are discussing. You may want to write 3 or 4 paragraphs about a specific type of research and shift focus to a new but related topic and do the same. In this way you can build the body of your paper.
The conclusion of your review paper should briefly restate your thesis statement and what you attempted to discuss. Then it should immediately provide brief summary statements about the research discussed in the body of your paper. You may choose to end with a blanket statement like “although a wealth of research evidence demonstrates a role for the medial prefrontal cortex in facilitating fear-extinction learning, other evidence indicates that local inhibitory neural networks operating in the amygdala may also be involved in mediating this behavioural effect. Consequently, future research should be directed at examining what role inhibitory GABA receptors play in reducing conditioned fear.” This type of ending demonstrates that you are aware of and critically thinking about other possibilities.
Literature Review Topics
1) Describe the role of the amygdala in conditioned fear acquisition and expression.
You may use information from the Fear-Potentiated Startle, defensive freezing behavior and active avoidance experimental paradigms to construct your literature review. Also, you may incorporate research derived from lesion studies, studies that infuse drugs directly into a specific brain area (e.g. amygdala), or electrical stimulation studies that focus on behavioral expressions of fear that are produced following electrical stimulation of certain nuclei within the amygdala.
2) Discuss the role played by amygdala-based glutamatergic receptors in conditioned fear learning, expression and Long-Term Potentiation.
Here again, you may want to use Fear-Potentiated Startle and the defensive freezing paradigms. This time however, the focus will be on writing a literature review that is based on experiments that directly infuse drugs into the amygdala. While some glutamatergic antagonists disrupt fear learning and expression, what impact do they have on Long-Term-Potentiation in the amygdala and hippocampus.
3) Examine and evaluate the contributions made by the amygdala and medial prefrontal cortex to fear-extinction learning.
You may mention how the amygdala and medial prefrontal cortex are connected and how activation of the medial prefrontal cortex serves to inhibit certain key amygdaloidal nuclei that are involved in producing many behavioral responses and expressions that are indicative of a central fear state.
4) How are the mesolimbic and mesocortical dopamine systems involved in mediating conditioned fear and stress responses in laboratory animals? And how might dopaminergic-mediated neurobiological processescontribute to schizophrenia and paranoid ideations in humans?
You should consider incorporating the dopamine hypothesis regarding Schizophrenia when writing this review. For example, how does an overactive dopamine system contribute to conditioned fear and stress in rodents and how is this ultimately related to Paranoid Schizophrenia and disorders in thought, mood and emotionality?
5) Review and provide an overview of the key brain structures and neural pathways that are involved in producing and maintaining reinforcing (i.e. rewarding) behaviours such asintracranial self-stimulation (ICSS).
Here you may want to examine how the Ventral Tegmental dopamine input to the Nucleus Accumbens and Prefrontal Cortex is involved in mediating reward and goal directed behaviors. Alternatively, you could also examine how electrical stimulation of the medial forebrain bundle at the level of the lateral hypothalamus is involved in ICSS behavior.
6) What is the role played by the Bed Nucleus of the Stria-Terminalis (BNST) and the Amygdala in mediating fear and anxiety responses in laboratory rats.
Remember there is a difference between brain circuits that mediate conditioned fear and those that mediate anxiety. Be sure to make the distinction between those regions thought to be involved in conditioned fear versus those that deal with anxiety. You may also want to briefly mention the septal-hippocampal circuit that is also thought to play a role in anxiety.
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