Feeding the Brain: How Diet Affects Brain Health and Metabolism

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Course DatesLengthMeeting TimesStatusFormatInstructor(s)CRN
July 19, 2021 - August 18, 20217/19 - 8/184 WeeksOnlineOpenOnlineFelix Chan

Course Description

2020 has changed our life and behavior significantly. With extended stay-at-home period, more people are cooking their meals in-house and thus, pay more attention to their diets. Do you drink more sugary drinks at home and feel sluggish? Or do you eat more fruits and vegetables in your diet to prepare you for extended period of working in front of the computer? Or do you get more take-outs from your favorite Chinese restaurants and sometimes feel lightheaded after the heavy meal? Have you wondered why and how eating certain foods can affect your brain health and mood? This course will explore these questions in an informed and collaborative structure while providing informal fun answers to some of these questions.

The course will start by introducing basic concepts in neuroscience like what is the nervous system, what neurons and glias are; how do they convey information, and how they manifest in meaningful behaviour. We will then gradually move to discussing basic metabolism principles such as mitochondria, respiration, and oxidative phosphorylation. Short lectures on these topics as well as additional readings will be provided to assist students with these topics.

The main portion of the course will discuss the effect of various popular diet on brain metabolism. Some of the diets that will be discussed in this course are blueberry intake, ketogenic diet, monosodium glutamate, and diabetic diet; all of which are known to change the brain metabolism in some way or the other. In discussing the effect of these diets, information will be extracted from both popular and scientific literature or articles and critical appraisal of these literatures will be discussed. Short primer lectures will be provided in each topic before students will be assigned short papers or excerpts to analyze and discuss the effects of these diets on brain health. Students will engage in collaborative discussion on the online forum and come to their own conclusion on how these diets affect the brain.

Towards the end of the course, students will be assigned to review a particular diet and will explore popular and scientific literatures on their own to investigate the influence of this diet on brain metabolism. Students will then be asked to present their findings in a group setting and receive constructive criticism on their literature appraisal and presentation skills. Throughout the course, students will be supported by the instructor in all aspects of this process.

Students will take away basic neuroscience knowledge and concepts from this course, especially pertaining brain metabolism. More specifically, they will learn how diet can influence brain metabolism and subsequently, behavior or brain diseases. Students will also acquire transferable skills such as critical appraisal of popular scientific literatures, scientific writing, presentation skills, and discussion in an online platform. Successful completion of this course will equip the student very well towards embarking on a neuroscience course in the college and as such are particularly suitable for students that are interested in this field.

Prerequisites: Basic biology and neuroscience knowledge would help the students participate actively in the course. Additionally, a basic understanding of chemistry and biochemistry would be helpful although not required. An understanding of ways to conduct an internet search of the literature is expected.

Course Information

  • Course Code: CEBN0941

Program Information


Brown’s Pre-College Program in the liberal arts and sciences for students completing grades 9-12 by June 2021.

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