Below is a list of courses previously taught by Dr. Flagel. In addition to formal education, many members of the Flagel Lab are interested in community outreach and in showing young students how fun and exciting science can be through hands-on activities.
This course surveys the field of Biopsychology. It introduces the kinds of questions traditionally addressed by physiological and comparative psychologists. Biopsychology is the study of how psychological processes relate to the brain and to evolution. A major focus is on how brain processes cause psychological events and behavior, and how psychological events are encoded in the brain (physiological psychology or behavioral neuroscience). Another focus is on how psychological processes (e.g., perception, cognition) differ across different species, and on how psychological processes have been shaped by evolutionary pressures (comparative or evolutionary psychology).
Topics will include: principles of behavioral evolution that have shaped current behavior and physiological processes; the anatomy and operation of brain systems relevant to mind and behavior, and their relation to psychoactive drugs; neural mechanisms of normal action, perception, motivation, learning, and cognition in humans and other species.
This lecture course provides a basic introduction to the neuropsychopharmacology of drug abuse and addiction, and has a strong natural science (neuroscience) orientation. Prerequisites include PSYCH 230 (Introduction to Biopsychology) and an interest in biological approaches to the study of behavior. Introductory Chemistry is also recommended. The acute and long-term effects of selected drugs of abuse on behavior, mood, cognition, and neuronal function are discussed, and material from studies with humans is integrated with basic studies on the neurobiological basis of drug action and drug abuse — including synaptic transmission and the distribution, regulation, and integration of brain neurotransmitter systems. The focus is on addictive or illicit drugs, and all the major classes are discussed, including: opiates (heroin, morphine, opium), sedative-hypnotics (alcohol, barbituates, chloral hydrate), anxiolytics (benzodiazepines), psychomotor stimulants (amphetamine, cocaine), marijuana, hallucinogens (LSD, mescaline), hallucinogenic-stimulants (MDA, MDMA), and dissociative anaesthetics (PCP).
This course will primarily use basic research articles to learn about the relationship between stress and behavior, with a focus on the underlying neurobiology. We will discuss the development of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis as well as the long-term effects of early life stressors. In addition, we will learn about HPA-axis regulation as well as dysregulation associated with psychopathology including addiction, anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. The primary “text book” to be used for this course is “Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers”, by Robert Sapolsky.
Classical Pavlovian conditioning is a form of associative learning that is widely used in advertising practices and can influence and guide our everyday behaviors. However, Pavlovian learning mechanisms can also contribute to maladaptive behaviors and psychopathology, such as impulse control disorders and addiction. In this course, we will examine these topics and discuss the psychological and neurobiological processes underlying Pavlovian learning. The course will begin with a historical perspective of Pavlov’s work and culminate with an understanding of the latest neuroscience articles that have begun to delineate the neurobiological processes that guide motivated behaviors.
Many members of the Flagel Lab participate in neuroscience community outreach activities. BrainsRule! is an event organized by neuroscience graduate students and brings approximately 250 5th and 6th grade students to the University of Michigan campus for a day to learn and get excited about neuroscience. The Flagel Lab has organized an “addiction booth” at this event which consisted of an “operant box” where students learned how powerful cues can be in controlling behavior, a “synaptic foosball table” where students learned how cocaine acts on the dopamine system, and a “walk the line” activity where students were challenged with “beer goggles”. In addition, we devised a “stress booth” to illustrate both the beneficial and deleterious effects of the stress response on the brain and body.