ANIMAL AND COMPARATIVE PSYCHOBIOLOGY
Learning outcomes of the course unit
The general aim of the course consists in the acquisition of a basic knowledge on the main techniques and results of studies investigating the neural basis of sensory, motor and cognitive functions shared by human and other animals, in a comparative, neuroethological perspective. The first part will concern theoretical and methodological aspects of psychobiological studies on animal models. The second part will introduce the neurophysiological mechanisms shared by most animals underlying visual, somatosensory and auditory functions, learning and memory skills, motor abilities and motor-based cognitive functions. The third and last part will be focused on the neural basis of higher level cognitive skills, such as spatial cognition, social learning, and socio-communicative abilities.
Basic knowledge in neurophysiology expected from graduate students of psychological disciplines.
Course contents summary
See extended program
Cognition and behavior between ethology and neuroscience. Animal experimentation: ethical and legal aspects. Behavioural, anatomical and neurophysiological methods for studying animal cognition. Nervous cells and behavior: historical and comparative perspective. Visual functions. Somatosensory function. Auditory function. Cellular mechanisms underlying learning and memory. Motor control: reflex schema, central pattern generator, corticalization and lateralization in an evolutionary perspective. Mirror neurons and comparative approach to motor-based cognitive functions. Spatial navigation: reference systems. Problem solving. Tool-use. Social learning. Social and communicative skills. Theory of mind and emotions.
Simone Pollo. Umani e animali: questioni di etica. Carocci Editore, 2016.Frans de Waal. Siamo così intelligenti da capire l’intelligenza degli animali? Raffaello Cortina, 2016.Scientific papers suggested during the lessons: all this material will be made available on Elly platform.
Assessment methods and criteria
Written and oral exams, based on a database of open-questions progressively made available during the course on Elly platform.