Learning outcomes of the course unit
1. A good understanding of genetic, epigenetic, hormonal and neurochemical basis of behavior in an evolutionary perspective as well as of their implications for clinical and psychological practice.
2. Capability to integrate the different levels of causal and functional analysis of behavior and to apply a scientific observational method to behavioural analysis.
3.. The ability to fully understand and criticize scientific and technical literature in the field of behavioral biology and to develop critical reasoning of behavioural data and their interpretations.
4. To develop their ability to present scientific work in a clear and concise manner and to effectively communicate scientific
advances in the field of behavioural analysis to a non-specialist or to a professional audience as well as their ethical and social implications.
Basic notions of biology, genetics and neurosciences.
Course contents summary
The course of biological basis of behavior is part of an integrated course and follows the first two modules of Classic and Cognitive Ethology. Students will thus already be familiar with concepts and methods of ethology.
This course provides an advanced introduction to research and perspectives on the relations between biology and behavior, evolution and development. As such, it will examine how genes, hormonal, or neurochemical activity affect behavior in non human species as well as in humans, to understand how biological activity operates over the course of evolution and development to produce diversity. The module will examine the benefits and limitations of studying animal behavior to understand human behavior and its disorders and the implications of ethological and evolutionary approaches to psychological studies.
1. Evolution, genes and environment: “Nature via Nurture”.
2. Genetic and epigenetic factors in behavioral development..
3. Hormones, neurotrasmitters and behavior regulation.
4. Sex differences in behavior: expression, development and adaptive significance.
5. Social systems, ecology and neuroendocrine basis: “The social brain” hypothesis.
5. Parental Investment, sexual selection and parental care. Cooperation and conflict.
6. Maternal functions and offspring psychosocial development. Epigenetic effects of maternal cares.
7. Imprinting and attachment.
8. An evolutionary approach to neuro-psychiatric disorders: Darwinian psychiatry. Animal models of psychiatric disorders
Alcock. Ethology: an evolutionary approach.
- Scientific papers and Text of lectures will be posted on the corse web site(Elly)
--Ridley M. The Red Queen.
-- Ridley M. Nature via Nurture. The Agile Gene: How Nature Turns on Nurture. Harper Perennial.
Hrdy S. Mother Nature. Ballantine books
During the lectures the I will illustrate and discuss the state of the art, concepts and experiments in the research field of behavioural biology by stressing out the specifics of ethological approach and methods. The lectures will be in an interactive format and students are strongly encouraged to ask questions and insert comments. We will watch and analyse videos on animal behaviour (including humans) to practice behavioral analysis methods.
Assessment methods and criteria
Understanding of the research issues, methods, perspectives and implications of the findings, as well as clarity, synthesis and use of scientific language will be evaluated by a final comprehensive written exam for all the integrated course