Neurobiology, 2017-08-01

Prof. Dr. Peter König
Dr. Sabine König
Tue, 2017-08-01



The examination is usually about A&C 1&2, you can also replace one of the lectures with a seminar but according to Prof. König himself, that's a lot of content...
The exam is about both lectures to equal parts (you cannot choose a focus on one).
Also, you cannot suggest a date for your examination, he offers fixed (and few, usually once a month) dates.
You can look up everything you need to know here: (under "Oral Exams")


He started off by asking me which parts I had prepared best (I didn't expect this), I answered that I was most comfortable with the first halves of both lectures. Then we jumped right in.

- Let's start with Morbus Parkinson, what are its symptoms, causes and treatment?
I mentioned bradykinesia, tremors, general difficulties with movement, and wanted to go on to causes..
- We're not done yet with the symptoms, there are three cardinal symptoms. You named bradykinesia, ...?
We went back to discuss tremors, the correct answer being "resting tremor" (not "intentional tremor", which is caused by deficits of the cerebellum). I didn't know what third symptom he meant, so I started to guess ("cognitive deficits"?)
- At which point he said, okay, go on to the causes.
So I explained direct, indirect pathways, different receptors/effects of dopamine on them, their effects on the cortex, lack of dopamine in the striatum in Parkinson's...
- He then gave me paper and pen and asked me to draw a map of the different basal ganglia parts and their connections.
I drew all of the areas and included the most important connections (he seemed pleased when I also added the hyperdirect pathway). There were one or two of which I wasn't sure, which I admitted. He also allowed me to use the more general terms "thalamus" and "brainstem" as the areas to which the BG project, instead of "Vo", "SC" and "PPN" (as in the original diagram).
- Next I was asked about inhibitory and excitatory steps ect, and given pens to color the respective connections in the diagram.
I explained this (2 inhib. steps in direct pathway -> net excit., 3 inhib. steps in indirect pathway, 1 inhib. step in hyperdirect pathway -> net inhibitory effect on cortex). I did a mistake during the coloring part (one inhibitory connection too much), he helped me to figure it out and correct it.
- Then we went on to treatment
I explained that L-dopa is a precursor of dopamine, in contrast to which it is able to pass the blood brain barrier. It can therefore help to activate the direct pathway and lessen the symptoms of Parkinson's, however, the effect are usually only short-term because L-dopa actually causes the remaining neurons to burn up faster.
- What are some new experimental treatments?
I explained about deep brain stimulation of the STN which acts like a temporary lesion and disrupts the inhibitory pathway.

The rest of the exam were short questions, he sometimes interrupted me before I had finished my answer when it became obvious that I knew it. I won't give my answers to these, as they're well documented.
- How would you describe neglect?
- How does blindsight differ from this?
- What are salience maps?
- What is a homunculus?
- What is a population vector?
- What is sensory substitution?
- What is a phantom limb?
(-Maybe more, but these are what I remember)

At this point (after only about 13 mins) he asked Sabine König if she had further questions, which she denied.
So after they shortly discussed in private, he told me that while I'd had a few recall difficulties in the beginning, I was well able to show my knowledge in the short questions, and they gave me a 1.0 :)

The questions were mostly about broad topics (the main topics from the lectures); in other words he didn't ask about stuff that had only been briefly discussed in a lecture. During the first part, he wanted detailed information, for the rest of the questions a short overview was enough.
Super relaxed and friendly atmosphere and rather short session!
10/10 would do again.