Biological Bases of Behavior
Overview and Course Objectives. This course will cover some relationships between the brain and behavior. My goal is to introduce the material and prepare you to go further with it, as the opportunities arise. We will cover the basic foundations and how they contribute to our understanding of specific systems (e.g., motor function, learning) or sets of problems (e.g., behavior disorders or substance abuse). I trust that you already know something about how behavior is organized. We will cover the structure of the nervous system, the different dimensions along which structure falls (e.g., physical, chemical), the function of different components of the central nervous system, motor systems, the fundamental units of the nervous system (the neuron and the synapse), and the neurobehavioral bases of selected behavior disorders. Then we will do a brief survey of some basic issues in psychopharmacology. This will include the concept of the dose-effect curve, the time course of drug action, new drug development, substance abuse, and the psychopharmacology of drugs in one or two clinical classes as time permits. This will go much of the way towards Level I psychopharmacology education, as defined by the APA.
This is not simple material, especially the first time through, and we will go fast, but it is within reach. I advise you to come to class prepared and to resist mightily the temptation to procrastinate. Read the assignment once before class, perhaps in one sitting. The first reading need not be to memorize details but rather to get an overview of what is in the chapter. Keep up with the material as we go through it in class. Read the chapter before quizzes and that reading should be for detail. I advise that when reading the chapter the second time you pause at the end of each section and summarize it using words and complete sentences. Pretend you are teaching it to someone else and, using the correct terms and experiments, explain what was in the chapter.
By the end of the quarter you should:
--- Be able to describe the major features of the brain and spinal cord.
--- Understand the action potential of neurons and the important events that take place in the synapse.
--- Understand how synaptic events contribute to our understanding of drugs and of some behavioral disorders.
--- Describe the major effector systems associated with movement.
--- Have an appreciation of how behavior and the other neurosciences jointly contribute to our understanding brain/behavior relationships.
--- Have an appreciation of behavior and the nervous system fit into the broader context offered by our understanding of evolution by natural selection.
--- Understand some of the basic principles of pharmacology, such as the role of dose, the concept of the receptor, and interpretation of dose-response curves.
--- Understand the neuro- and behavioral pharmacology of some of the common classes of behaviorally active drugs.
--- Appreciate the fundamental concept of the reinforcing action of some classes of drugs, and the scientific and clinical implications of this discovery.
Evaluation. Your grade from this section will be an average taken from three quizzes.
Course Structure. The course (and quizzes) will be centered around the textbook and readings. Class time will be used partly to cover material from the textbook, especially material that might be difficult to get from the book alone. For this I will need your help in letting me know what parts of the book you find difficult. I also hope to use some class time to extend the discussion in the textbook either to cover a topic in a little more depth or to discuss a point raised by the authors.
Academic Honesty. Cheating is theft and a betrayal of the good-faith required for higher education to function. It will not be tolerated but will be dealt with according to the policies established in the Tiger Cub. You are expected to do your own work on quizzes but, of course, you may study together for quizzes.
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