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CCOG for PSY 213 Spring 2023

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Course Number:
PSY 213
Course Title:
Introduction to Behavioral Neuroscience
Credit Hours:
Lecture Hours:
Lecture/Lab Hours:
Lab Hours:

Course Description

Introduces the major concepts in behavioral neuroscience. Surveys the role of the brain and nervous system in behavior and psychological functioning with particular focus on the basics of nervous system signaling, the sensory and motor systems as well as the neural bases of substance abuse, psychopathology, learning, memory, emotion, sleep, and language. Prerequisites: (WR 115 and RD 115) or IRW 115 and MTH 20 or equivalent placement, and PSY 201A or (BI 112 or BI 120 or BI 121 or BI 231 or BI 232). Audit available.

Addendum to Course Description

The Psychology Program at PCC adheres to evidence-based course content and teaching best practices.  "[Science] is more than a school subject, or the periodic table, or the properties of waves. It is an approach to the world, a critical way to understand and explore and engage with the world, and then have the capacity to change that world..."    President Barack Obama, March 23, 2015.  US Department of Education webpage.

Intended Outcomes for the course

Upon completion of the course students should be able to:

  1. Identify the brain’s neuroanatomy and its functions throughout the nervous system to understand behavior and mental processes.

  2. Describe the effects of psychopharmacology on behavior with particular attention to the underlying neurophysiology mechanisms.

  3. Explain the role of brain functioning in psychological processes using the methods associated with behavioral neuroscience.

Course Activities and Design

All sections of this course, whether F2F or online, will utilize multiple modes of assessment, and not just rely on objective (T/F and MC) tests.   Online sections will adhere to ‘Quality Matters’ and accessibility guidelines along with the “What Works Well in Online Teaching at PCC” document.

Teachers will employ best practices, which include (but are not limited to):

  • Making expectations clear and transparent, and supporting students in achieving course expectations.

  • Assessing often, via different modes, and providing timely feedback on student performance (generally a week or less, but no more than 10 days unless extenuating circumstances intervene) so that students have the opportunity to improve.

  • Maintaining an environment in which diversity is respected and supported, and addressing the situation when that does not occur.

  • Maintaining an environment in which all students can learn, and seeking appropriate support (PCC CARE program) when a student is demonstrating behavior that is interfering with their own and/or others’ success. 

  • Recognizing and supporting student needs, including disability support, and providing reasonable arrangements for extenuating circumstances while remaining fair to all students in the course.

Outcome Assessment Strategies

Student assessment will include some combination of any of the following:

  • Written assignments (in-class, homework, or formal papers) designed to promote integration and understanding of class material and assigned reading

  • Short answer and/or essay questions that require integration, application and critical examination of assigned material

  • Objective tests such as multiple-choice, true-false, and matching assessment items that address course concepts, issues, and themes.

  • Participate in individual and group exercises, activities, or class presentations.

  • Class participation, including online discussions where appropriate and part of course delivery and outcomes

  • Other assignments as designed by the instructor

Course Content (Themes, Concepts, Issues and Skills)

Introduction to Behavioral Neuroscience and Anatomy of the Nervous System

  • Describe the different subfields of behavioral neuroscience and explain how each subfield contributes to our understanding of the brain and subsequent behaviors

  • Differentiate between the major divisions of the nervous system and identify the functions of the major parts of the CNS and PNS 

  • Describe the 3 major divisions of the brain, provide the names of the subdivisions within each division as well as the major brain regions in each

  • Explain the structure and function of the spinal cord as well as the path of sensory and motor information through the spinal cord

  • Identify the three mechanisms in place to protect our central nervous system 

  • Define how MRI, PET, spinal taps, and in vivo microdialysis contribute to our understanding of neurology and identify the benefits and drawbacks of each method

Cells of the Nervous System and Introduction to Neurophysiology

  • Distinguish between the different types of neurons and glia with a focus on their major functions

  • Identify the main parts of a neuron and describe the functional roles of each structure

  • Describe how myelin is formed, how it influences electrical conductance in an axon, and what happens when pathology occurs

  • Define membrane potential and describe the distribution of ions across the axon membrane that contributes to all phases of the action potential including the following: the resting membrane potential, depolarization, repolarization, hyperpolarization, and the return to the resting membrane potential

  • Define the threshold of excitation and explain what happens in the neuron when the threshold is reached

  • Describe what is meant by the action potential being All-or-None and non-decremental in its propagation

Synapses, Neurotransmitters, and Receptors

  • Describe how the action potential leads to the activation of neurotransmitter release

  • Define a postsynaptic potential, distinguish between excitatory and inhibitory postsynaptic potentials, and explain what a graded response is

  • Define spatial and temporal summation and explain how graded potentials influence the likelihood that a neuron will fire an action potential

  • Describe the different mechanisms involved in terminating neurotransmitter signaling

  • Explain how autoreceptors are important for regulating the levels of neurotransmitters in the synaptic cleft

  • Compare and contrast amino acid neurotransmitters, monoamine neurotransmitters, acetylcholine, endorphins, soluble gas neurotransmitters, and peptides while identifying examples of each

  • Compare and contrast ionotropic and metabotropic receptors regarding structure, action, and speed of signaling

Disorders of the Nervous System and Introduction to Pharmacotherapy

  • Compare and contrast direct agonists, co-agonists, indirect agonists, noncompetitive antagonists, and competitive antagonists

  • Describe the different classes of mood disorders and what is known about their biological underpinnings

  • Compare and contrast the therapeutic efficacy and side-effect profile of antidepressant medications based on their pharmacology

  • Describe the neurobiology of bipolar disorder and the major therapeutics utilized to treat this disorder

  • Explain the neurobiology of schizophrenia and compare and contrast the therapeutic efficacy and side-effect profile of 1st and 2nd generation antipsychotic medications based on their pharmacology

  • Describe autism spectrum disorder and its neurobiology

Overview of Reward Processing and Substance Use Disorders

  • Define substance use disorders and differentiate between mild, moderate, and severe forms of the disorders

  • List and describe the major classes of psychoactive drugs and their general subjective and physiological effects 

  • Define physical dependence and describe withdrawal syndromes for the major classes of drugs 

  • Define addiction liability and identify the factors that influence the addiction liability of drugs

  • Describe the mechanisms of action for the major drugs of abuse such as: amphetamines, cocaine, caffeine, nicotine, barbiturates, benzodiazepines, PCP, ketamine, LSD, mescaline, MDMA, and THC

  • Explain how alcohol suppresses neurotransmission in the brain and describe the biochemical basis for concerns about mixing alcohol with other drugs

  • Describe the mechanism of action of opiate drugs and explain common treatments for opiate addiction

Introduction to the Neuroscience of Vision and Hearing

  • List and describe the major structures of the eye

  • Describe the differences in structure, function, and location between rods and cones

  • Describe the pathway of light through the eye, the transduction of light in the retina and the pathway the neural signal travels through to reach the primary visual cortex

  • Compare and contrast the ventral and dorsal stream of visual processing

  • Explain how color vision is processed and the major evidence to support each theory

  • List and describe the major structures of the ear

  • Describe how sound waves are transduced into action potentials in the ear

  • Draw the pathway from the auditory nerve to the auditory cortex

Overview of the Somatosensory and Sensorimotor Systems

  • Distinguish between the exteroceptive, proprioceptive, and interoceptive systems

  • Explain the pathways for mechanical, thermal, and nociceptive stimuli from the periphery to the somatosensory cortex

  • Compare and contrast free nerve endings, fast adapting skin receptors (Pacinian corpuscles), and slow adapting skin receptors (Merkel’s disks and Ruffini endings)

  • Compare and contrast the anatomy and function of the 2 major ascending somatosensory systems

  • Explain how damage to the dorsal root, spinal cord, thalamus, and somatosensory cortex impact the perception of touch and proprioception

  • Compare and contrast the two major motor association cortices in terms of location and function

  • Describe what occurs when the primary motor cortex is damaged

  • Compare and contrast the two major tracts that descend down the spinal cord carrying motor information in terms of anatomy and function

Learning and Memory Systems and Associated Disorders

  • Compare and contrast working, episodic, semantic, and implicit memory

  • Define retrograde and anterograde amnesia

  • Discuss the role of the hippocampus in the formation of learning and memory and identify the impact of hippocampal damage

  • Explain the process involved in both long-term potentiation and long-term depression, focusing on the neuroplasticity and how it is related to learning and memory

  • Describe the role of AMPA and NMDA receptors in neuroplasticityIdentify the impact of damage to areas of the brain involved in memory formation and consolidation

  • Describe the neurological changes involved in Alzheimer’s disease

Affective Neuroscience with focus on Stress and Anxiety

  • Describe the general roles for the thalamus, amygdala, hippocampus, and prefrontal cortex in determining and processing emotion

  • Define the HPA axis and identify the hormones and their receptors involved in the neuroendocrine response to stress

  • Compare and contrast sympathetic nervous system activation and activation of the HPA axis in terms of type of neural communication and duration of neural signal

  • Explain how activation of a scary memory could lead to activation of the HPA axis and arousal based on the connections between the 3 nuclei of the amygdala and the rest of the brain

  • Describe the role of the central nucleus of the amygdala in the processing of unconditioned and conditioned fearful stimuli

  • Define anxiolytic and compare and contrast the pharmacological approaches to treating anxiety disorders

  • Describe how dysfunction of the amygdala might contribute to depression, anxiety disorders, and substance abuse disorders

Neuroscience of Wakefulness and Sleep

  • Define and discuss the circadian rhythm

  • Identify and explain the connection between the retina and the suprachiasmatic nucleus and its role in regulating circadian rhythms

  • Explain how sunlight decreases the release of melatonin by the pineal gland and the subsequent impact on wakefulness

  • Identify the major brain pathways involved in sleep

  • Describe the sleep cycle while comparing and contrasting REM sleep and non-REM sleep

  • Describe the major pathology and symptoms of sleep disorders including narcolepsy, sleep apnea, and REM sleep behavior disorder

Introduction to Neurolinguistics and Language Disorders

  • Identify the major brain areas involved in language processing

  • Describe the impact of handedness and brain lateralization on language processing

  • Identify the important studies involved in identifying the process of language acquisition 

  • Define aphasia; identify the brain regions involved in both Broca’s and Wernicke’s aphasia

  • Explain the term pure alexia and its impact on reading and writing

  • Discuss the different forms of dyslexia and its neurobiology