Course teached as: B021319 - PSICOBIOLOGIA DEL COMPORTAMENTO Second Cycle Degree in PSYCHOLOGY OF THE LIFE CYCLE AND CONTEXTS
General aim: to provide knowledge and understanding of the psychobiological mechanisms underlying individual differences in behaviour. We shall discuss how environmental and genetic factors, their interactions, and epigenetic mechanisms contribute to guide development of several aspects of behaviour and of the underlying neural circuits by means of specific, long term, plasticity mechanisms. Particular attention will be devoted to psychobiological factors contributing to resilience.
No textbook is available for the topics covered in this course. In addition to the slide presented during classes, a number of review papers, which will serve as lecture notes, will be put online on the e-learning site.
Knowledge and understanding
The Course "Psychobiology of behaviour" aims at providing advanced knowledge on this issue, exploiting data form scientific literature, both in humans and in preclinical models. In particular, it aims at: analyzing psychobiological factors underlying interindividual differences in behaviour, both during development and in adult age; analyzing the role of the environment a subject develops and lives in and of the subject's genotype in interindividual behavioural differences, highlighting possible protective factors which might allow to better cope with an adverse environment; stimulating skills in understanding and critically analyze the scientific literature in the field; developing useful competences to successfully integrate within multidisciplinary equipes working on research and intervention on behavioural disorders and in genetics of behaviour. It also aims at developing useful skills to work on preclinical models.
Covered issues will be:
a) brain development; role played by experience in guiding neural and behavioural development
b) mechanisms of adaptive and maladaptive neural plasticity and relative methods of study, including in neuroplasticity also hippocampal neurogenesis.
c) Examples of the approach Gene – Environment interactions in the study of interindividual differences in behavioural development and adaptability
d) Epigenetic mechanisms, discussing how environment, through them, and interacting with genetic factors, may contribute to adaptive or maladaptive behavioural plasticity;
e) we shall discuss briefly discuss the animal models dels most frequently used in psychobiology; we shall then discuss X-Fragile and Rett sindrome psychobiology, and environmental effects in moderating phenotype in animal models of these syndromes;
Before discussing issue c) d) and e) we shall outline the specific neural circuits Gene-Environment interactions act upon in affecting resilience and where environmental induces resilience related epigenetic modifications.
f) the last lectures will be devoted to examine these concepts in the context of a specific part of our life, aging. We shall examine which protective factors might contribute to promote what is called "successful aging".
Applying knowledge and understanding
At the end of the course, students are expected to know how to find and how to critically analyze the scientific literature useful for understanding the psychobiological substrates of interindividual behavioural differences, in order
to make their own judgements; to possess a good understanding of research methods and techniques in the field; to possess the necessary know how to work in the field of preclinical models; to possess useful know how to
work in teams operating in the fields of pathogenesis, prevention of, and/or recovery from, cognitive and behavioural disorders.
The student will know and understand the biological processes underlying the psychological processes related to the main transisions in the life span, from infancy to old age, with a particular attention to vulnerability and susceptibility to environment.
Acquisition of these skills will be stimulated encouraging students to make links between psychobiology approach and the study of other psychological disciplines and training them to understand and draw conclusions from data presented in scientific papers.
Students will be encouraged to reflect on which experimental results are used to propose an hypothesis in psychobiology, on the limits imposed by the experimental protocols and tools employed on the conclusions which can be drawn by the results obtained in a psychobiology research.
Care will be taken to stimulate the ability to organize and clearly express one's knowledge and considerations and to know how to express and discuss the scientific literature in the field.
Communication skills will be stimulated via discussions and practical tests during classes.
Teaching also aims to help students in developing flexible and effective
learning skills for keeping oneself up to date after the master degree.
basic knowledge of psychobiology, as possessed by students coming from a L-24 course. For those students who have not followed any psychobiology course (sector M-Psi/02) it is advisable that they read the first chapters of the book "Psicobiologia dello sviluppo", Laterza editore (2010), authors Berardi-Pizzorusso.
Teaching methods are indicated for every specific learning resultexpected
Knowledge and understanding: Lectures
Applying knowledge and understanding: Discussions and practical tests (4 hours practice, 4 hours practice and assessement) during classes
Making judgements: Discussion of the scientific results which underlie the present knowledge in the topics covered by the program.
Communication skills: Provide examples of complete and synthetic answers to the open questions present in the practical test and stimulate the students to formulate such answers by themselves.
Learning skills: Lectures.
Type of Assessment
Knowledge and understanding
Written exam composed of two types of questions, open questions (10), short questions requiring concise answers and true or false questions with compulsory justification of the choice operated (12).
Correctness and completeness of responses and correctness of True/false choice are evaluated. Oral exam. Correctness and completeness of responses are evaluated. Further information on exam modalities and examples of written exam tests are available on the course site on e-learning Moodle platform. Further information on exam modalities and examples of written exam tests are available on the course site on e-learning Moodle platform.
Applying knowledge and understanding
Tests during classes, implying discussion on examples of typical written exam questions; solving of small problems and interpretation of graphs in the written and oral exam.
Discussion of the scientific evidence supporting the current knowledge on the different topics covered by the program in the written and oral exam. Presentation of small problems requiring the student to justify the conclusions drawn by a set of experiments in the written and oral exam.
To be able to provide complete, clear and pertinent answers to open questions and justifications to true or false questions; completeness and clearness of answers in the oral exam.
Possess of the knowledge necessary to fully profit of the courses in the subsequent years of the Corso di Laurea will be assessed with the written and oral exam already described and within the discussions during classes and practical tests
Recent results in the scientific literature indicate that complex interactions between the genotype and the environment an individual develops and lives in are at the basis of interindiviual differences in behaviour, both in its development and in its modifications. In these gene x environment interactions a crucial role is played by epigenetic mechanisms. we shall see how environment, genetic factors and epigentic mechanisms contribute to interindividual differences in behaviour and in its modifications in response to experience via plastic changes taking place in different neural circuits, involving several neurotrasmitters and molecular pathways.
These long term plastic changes shape neural circuit function in an adaptive but also in a maldaptive way, contributing to the interindividual differences in successfully coping with adverse conditions.
Topics covered: phases of brain development; role of experience in guiding brain and behaviour development; critical periods and their biological basis; mechanisms of adaptive and maladaptive neural plasticity and methods of investigation; hippocampal neurogenesis and pattern separation, between contextual memory and anxiety behaviour; endogenous reward system; neural circuits of emotional behaviour and of emotional control; examples of gene x environment interactions in behaviour development and in behaviour modifications in response to experience; epigenetic mechanisms as mediators of long term effects of environment on behaviour; psychobiology of neurodevelopmental syndromes (X-Fragile e Rett syndromes); psychobiology of formation and extiction of fear memories; cognitive aging: psychobiological aspects; protective factors agaist major cognitive decline with age: epidemiological studies, studies in animal models, intervention studies in humans.