PSYCHOBIOLOGY OF STRESS
Learning outcomes of the course unit
Objectives with reference to the Dublin parameters:
1) Knowledge and comprehension skills. The students will have to reach a good knowledge of (i) the stress concept, (ii) its neuroendocrine bases, (iii) the adaptive and maladaptive potential of stress response, and (iv) its possible pathophysiological implications.
2) Capacity of applying knowledge and comprehension. The students will have to be able to make use of the concepts they have learned in order to (i) design the most appropriate experimental paradigms for human and animal studies, (ii) identify and measure the physiological parameters that better allow to discriminate between an adaptive and a maladaptive stress response.
3) Capacity of independent evaluation. The students will have to develop critical and independent evaluation skills upon the stress concept, the most reliable stress markers, and the individual differences in stress resilience and vulnerability.
4) Communication skills. The students will have to be able to communicate in a non ambiguous manner the main concepts, the theoretical bases and the physiological and pathophysiological aspects that characerize stress and stress-related pathologies.
5) Learning capacity. The students will have to be able to learn experimental approaches and procedures for the investigation of the stress response and its potential pathophysiological implications.
Course contents summary
The course is aimed at orienting the students in the comprehension of the stress concept, through an hystorical survey from the first definitions to the most recent semantic and conceptual revisions. Moreover, the course aims at guiding the students to the knowledge of (i) the adaptive meaning of stress response, (ii) the neuroendocrine substrates that characterize it and (iii) the psychological and psychosomatic disturbances to which it can contribute. The course will be integrated with group tasks, consisting in (i) the handling and presentation of experimental data and (ii) a bibliographic search and presentation of scientific articles dealing with the topic of the experimental data. This practical part of the course aims at facilitating the development of skills in designing, analyzing and presenting a small experimental project.
- Stress: definitions and conceptual aspects.
Introduction to the psychobiology of emotions.
Stress history and terminology.
Adaptation and pathology.
Homeostasis and allostasis.
Controllability and predictability.
- Neuroendocrine bases of stress response.
The sympathetic-adrenomedullary system (SAM).
The hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical axis (HPA).
The role of the autonomic nervous system.
- Stress-related psychosomatic disturbances.
Cardiovascular, immune, metabolic, and gastroenteric pathologies.
- Stress-related psychopathologies.
Anxiety, PTSD, depression.
- Styles of coping with stress.
Coping strategies (proactive vs. reactive) in animals and man.
Vulnerability and resilience.
- Animal models of stress-related pathologies.
Acute, intermittent, and chronic stress.
Methods for stress induction.
Methods for stress measurement.
Biological and behavioral markers of stress.
- Social stress in man and in the experimental animal.
- Handling and presentation of experimenatl data.
- Bibliographic search and presentation of scientific articles.
- Stress revisited: a critical evaluation of the stress concept. J.M. Koolhaas et al. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews. 35(5):1291-1301, 2011
- Encyclopedia of Stress - Vol. 1, 2 & 3. G. Fink. Academic Press, 2000
- Biopsychology (6th edition). J.P.J. Pinel. Pearson Education Inc., 2006
Chapter 17 (pp. 425-447, 454-460).
Notes of the course at "Libreria Scientifica S. Croce", Parma.
During frontal lessons the basic concepts of stress will be discussed, as well as the neuroendocrine substrates, the experimental paradigms, the adaptive value and the pathological implications (both psychological and psychosomatic).
The course will be integrated with group tasks, consisting in (i) the handling and presentation of experimental data and (ii) a bibliographic search and presentation of scientific articles dealing with the topic of the experimental data. This practical part of the course aims at facilitating the development of skills in designing, analyzing and presenting a small experimental project.
Assessment methods and criteria
Learning assessment will be performed at the end of the course and will consist of two phases: (i) a written test with two open questions (two thirds of the final mark) and (ii) an oral presentation of the group work on the experimental data and bibliographic search (one third of the final mark). In this way, it will be possible to verify not just the knowledge and comprehension capacity of the theoretical and practical aspects presented during the course, but also the capacity of making use of the concepts learned (Dublin parameter 2).