Psychobiology of Behaviour
Course infoSchedule
Course moduleSOW-BS034
Credits (ECTS)4
CategoryMA (Master)
Language of instructionEnglish
Offered byRadboud University; Faculty of Social Sciences; Behavioural Science;
PreviousNext 1
dr. I. Godoy
Other course modules lecturer
dr. I. Godoy
Other course modules lecturer
dr. I. Godoy
Other course modules lecturer
Contactperson for the course
prof. dr. C. de Weerth
Other course modules lecturer
prof. dr. C. de Weerth
Other course modules lecturer
Academic year2018
PER3  (04/02/2019 to 14/04/2019)
Starting block
Course mode
RemarksFor Behavioural Science RM students only, non-BSRM students interested in the course, please mail to
Registration using OSIRISYes
Course open to students from other facultiesYes
Waiting listNo
Placement procedure-
After completing this course students will have knowledge and understanding of psychobiological mechanisms underlying human behaviour. Students will be able to critically analyze recent literature on the course subjects, comparing theories and findings to other, self-provided literature. Students will be able to reflect on the literature, drawing own conclusions, and commenting on them orally and in writing. Students will be able to integrate the knowledge obtained from the lectures and the literature. Based on their knowledge and their own judgments and conclusions, students will be able to design their own research proposal to further expand a specific area of research using innovative psychobiological principles and methodologies. They will be able to pitch their research proposal to lecturers and other students. Finally, students will be able to evaluate and clearly discuss points and theories made by the lecturers and other students.
Evolutionary theory is the red line throughout this course in which we will look at human behaviour and functioning in the light of biological processes.  The course covers diverse topics within psychobiology: from comparative psychology and ethology, through hormones and stress, to hot topics in psychobiology, namely epigenetics, developmental programming, telomeres, and intestinal microbiota. Novel, and often surprising, insights into mechanisms underlying human behaviour will be presented and discussed.
Themes of the lectures:
1) Why integrate biology to psychology? Advantages and problems of the interdisciplinary approach. Comparative behavioural science.
6) Human ethology: observational studies of human behavior. Crowd behaviour, sex role behaviour.
8) Evolutionary psychology: focusing on the controversies and limitations of the discipline.
2) Role of hormones in behaviour: behavioral endocrinology. Social status, personality and stress. Parental behaviour. Sex hormones: organizing and activating effects.
3) Stress: physiology, coping, health, vulnerability.
5) Developmental psychobiology: effects of genes and environment on development, epigenetic effects.
4) Prenatal programming of physiology and behaviour.
7) Intestinal microbiota and the gut-brain axis: how bacteria influence our behaviour

Teaching format
Each of the eight meetings will focus on a specific theme. The instructor will first deliver a 1-hour lecture on the topic. The second part of each meeting, the assigned literature will be discussed with the use of discussion points that students have sent in beforehand. Finally, students will take turns giving an oral presentation in groups about a self-designed research proposal that is based on the assigned literature. The remaining students will ask questions and discuss the proposal together with the presenting students and instructors.

Exam information
The final grade of the course is built up out of the following parts:
1) 50% weekly assignments, oral presentations, and class participation (max 10 points). Attendance and class participation will be used to round off grades (positively or negatively).
2) 50% written or oral exam with open ended questions on all literature, papers and lectures of the course (max 10 points)
Required materials
Flinn MV, Ponzi D, Muehlenbein MP (2012) Hormonal mechanisms for regulation of aggression in human coalitions. Human Nature 23(1):68-88.
Lupien SJ, McEwen BS, Gunnar MR, Heim C (2009) Effects of stress throughout the lifespan on the brain, behaviour and cognition. Nat Rev Neurosci. 10:434-45.
Simpson JA, Griskevicius V, Kuo SI, Sung S, Collins WA (2012) Evolution, stress, and sensitive periods: the influence of unpredictability in early versus late childhood on sex and risky behavior. Dev Psychol. 48:674-86.
Lee YA, Yamaguchi Y, Goto Y. (2015) Neurodevelopmental Plasticity in Pre- and Postnatal Environmental Interactions: Implications for Psychiatric Disorders from an Evolutionary Perspective. Neural Plast. 2015:291476.
Stewart PA1, Salter FK, Mehu M. (2009) Taking leaders at face value: ethology and the analysis of televised leader displays. Politics Life Sci. 2009 Mar;28(1):48-74.
Tomasello, M., Carpenter, M., Call, J., Behne, T., & Moll, H. (2005) Understanding and sharing intentions: The origins of cultural cognition. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 28:675-735.
Confer, J. C., Easton, J. A., Fleischman, D. S., Goetz, C. D., Lewis, D. M. G., Perilloux, C., & Buss, D. M. (2010) Evolutionary psychology: Controversies, questions, prospects, and limitations. American Psychologist 65:110-126.
Oosterholt BG, Maes JH, Van der Linden D, Verbraak MJ, Kompier MA (2016) Getting better, but not well: A 1.5 year follow-up of cognitive performance and cortisol levels in clinical and non-Clinical burnout. Biol Psychol. 117:89-99.
Dinan TG, Stilling RM, Stanton C, Cryan JF (2015). Collective unconscious: how gut microbes shape human behavior. J Psychiatr Res. 63:1-9.
To be announced
Scientific articles (15) that can be downloaded from the Radboud library site.

Instructional modes

Weekly assignments and presentations
Test weight1
Test typePresentation
OpportunitiesBlock PER3, Block PER4

Exam open-end questions
Test weight1
Test typeExam
OpportunitiesBlock PER3, Block PER4