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Psychological Science: Psychopharmacology

PSYS 216 OL1 (CRN: 61808)

3 Credit Hours

About PSYS 216 OL1

Effects of drugs (both medical and recreational) on behavior. Topics such as drug effects on learning, memory, motivation, perception, emotions, and aggression. Prerequisites: PSYS 053; PSYS 115 or NSCI 111.



Dates: June 17 - July 12, 2019

More Information

Section Description

Psychoactive drugs are substances that alter mood, consciousness, and/or behavior, which they accomplish by modifying existing pathways in the brain. Most commonly, psychoactive drugs alter the processes involved in the synaptic transmission of neurotransmitters. In this course we will examine the major neurotransmitters systems of mammalian brains, discussing the pharmacology of each system, and the role of each in normal and abnormal behavior. This course might seem difficult because the field of psychopharmacology is based on fundamental principles spanning many sciences, including chemistry, biology, and biochemistry. I will do my best to try and make this class assessable to everyone; however, please ask questions and/or see me if you feel lost. Feedback is very important to me. In this course we will consider most of the major neurotransmitter systems in the brain, and how different drugs and diseases interact with these neurotransmitter systems. Note that we are starting with the basic systems first; this is not a course designed to go through each of the drug classes and discuss all of the drugs that alter behavior. It is a course about neurotransmitter systems and how drugs interact with these systems. After taking this course, we expect that you will be able to read about research in the field of psychopharmacology and be able to critically evaluate the work. Because this is an upper level course, we expect that the depth of your understanding will prepare you for graduate study in fields related to psychopharmacology. Within this framework, we have several major objectives: 1. Factual knowledge and scientific vocabulary. We will test your knowledge of scientific vocabulary and basic processes related to psychopharmacology on exams. 2. Conceptual understanding. Some exam questions will be designed to assess your conceptual understanding of topics related to psychopharmacology. For example, you may asked to compare similarities and differences between different neurotransmitter systems, or processes within those systems. 3. Solving problems. We will also require you to use the information that you have learned in a new or different way to show that you can solve problems. For example, we may give you a hypothetical scientific problem on an exam, and ask you to determine the best way to address the problem given the tools we have discussed in class. In addition to the objectives listed above, certain departmental learning goals pertain to this course: Department Learning Goals. Learning Goal #1: In this course, I work with students so that they may master core concepts, theoretical perspectives, and empirical findings pertinent to psychopharmacology. Learning Goal #2: In this course, I work with students so that they may develop the skills necessary to interpret and evaluate critically and scientifically material pertinent to psychopharmacology Assignment and exams will have questions that explicitly address the objectives and learning goals outlined above.

Section Expectation

There is a lot of material covered in this course. You are expected to complete all of the readings and assignments on time. You are also responsible for material contained in links to external websites, videos and audio. This will likely take several hours each day. You will get behind quickly if you don't keep up with the material. I expect that many of you will have questions about the material. This means you are engaging with the material! Please feel free to ask me questions. I will monitor Discussion Board for each week frequently, and will happily address questions in that forum. Regarding the assignments, do your best. Some credit will be given for making a thoughtful and clear attempt at engaging with the material.


There are four learning modules corresponding to the four weeks of class. There are 50 points that can be earned in each learning module (25 points from daily assignments, and 25 points from weekly exams). Exams (25 points each): 100 points Assignments (5-10 points each): 100 points Total: 200 points (your grade will be calculated as a percentage of these 200 points) If you know that you will be missing assignments due to a religious holiday, you MUST inform me within the first 2 days of class. If it is to your benefit (increases your grade), the cumulative final exam can be used to replace either the lowest of your three prior exam grades. Furthermore, if your final exam score is a C- or higher, you will not receive less than a C- for your course grade. Every week, the last topic will be covered on Thursdays and Fridays. However, please make sure you cover the material on Thursday- the reason is, I am happy to answer questions regarding the material on Friday, but once I open up the weekend exam on Friday afternoons at 5:00 pm, I will no longer answer questions on the material until all of the exams are completed. There will be a final exam that must be taken on the last day of class, August 11 (I will open up the final the afternoon of Thursday, August 10 and it must be completed by 11:59, Friday, August 11). Half of this final exam will be cumulative, and contain questions from the rest of the course. You will have four exams in this course, on the weekends. The exams will open up Friday at 5:00 pm and be due Sunday at 11:59 pm (except for the final exam, described above). Once you start an exam, you will have 90 minutes to complete it, so make sure you have a 90 minute window that is free from distractions each weekend of the course (except the last exam must be taken on the last Friday of the course). Most of the questions will be short answer (1-3 sentence answers). You will be allowed to use your text, and notes from our discussions together, but I do not want you to use each other or other web sources unless they are used in the course.




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