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 terminology and the current psychobiological theories, (ii) the physiological correlates of different behavioral, emotional and cognitive phenotypes, (iii) the methods for inducing such phenotypes and measuring their biological substrates.
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 characterize the behavioral phenotypes and the individual differences in terms of adaptation and resilience.
3) Capacity of independent evaluation. The students will have to develop critical and independent evaluation skills upon the basic concepts of psychobiology and the methods used in the experimental field.
4) Communication skills. The students will have to be able to communicate in a non ambiguous manner the theoretical knowledge, the experimental paradigms and the physiological substrates of various behavioral, emotional and cognitive phenotypes.
5) Learning capacity. The students will have to be able to learn experimental approaches and procedures for the investigation of behavioral, emotional and cognitive manifestations in animals and humans.
Course contents summary
The course is aimed at orienting the students in the comprehension of the basic concepts and the main theories of psychobiology, through an hystorical journey from the first defiitions to the most recent semantic and conceptual revisions. Moreover, the course aims at guiding the students to the knowledge of the neurochemical, neuroendocrine and physiological susbstrates of animal and human behavior, of emotions and of complex cognitive performances.
Introduction: historical view, definitions, basic theories and criteria.
Branches of psychobiology.
Cells of the nervous system.
Brief anatomy of the nervous system.
Methods for the study of the nervous system.
Methods for the study of behavior.
Psychobiology of learning and memory.
Psychobiology of addiction.
Psychobiology of sleep.
Handling and presentation of experimental data.
Bibliographic search and presentation of scientific articles.
- Notes of the course available at Print Service (Campus).
- Biopsychology (6th edition). J.P.J. Pinel. Pearson Education Inc., 2006
- 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
During frontal lessons the basic concepts will be discussed, as well as the theories and experimental paradigms that characterize psychobiology as a scientific discipline that investigates the neurochemical, neuroendocrine and physiological substrates of human and animal behavior. 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).