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Academic year 2019/2020

Course ID
Prof. Benedetto Sacchetti
Degree course
Cellular and Molecular Biology
2nd year
Related or integrative
Course disciplinary sector (SSD)
M-PSI/02 - psicobiologia e psicologia fisiologica
Formal authority
Type of examination

Sommario del corso


Course objectives

This course contributes to the learning goals of the Neurobiological curriculum of the Master in Cellular and Molcula Biology. The course is aimed at providing students with the most update information on the interaction between biological mechanisms and cognitive processes that lead to complex behaviors. In particular, during the course it will be analyzed i) the interaction between emotions and feelings, describing the most recent major theories, with particular attention to fear and anxiety, and to the reward and pleasure; ii) the cognitive processes underlying decision-making processes and the formation of memories. In the meantime, the course will provide information about the major disorders related to these functions (depression, anxiety disorders and post -traumatic stress, learning disorders and "false" memories, compulsive behavior and substance of abuse). 


Results of learning outcomes

At the end of the course the student will have gained a comprehensive understanding of the major motivational and emotional processes based on integrated knowledge of biology, medicine and psychology.

Expected outcomes, divided in “knowledge, understanding, abilities”, are:


  • the neural circuits that underlie emotional processes
  • the neural circuits involved in learnng and memory
  • the cellular mechanisms involved in synaptic plasticity and memory encoding


  • how a behavioral study, aiming at a knowledge of the above, is planned and conducted in rodents and humans; how results are presented and discussed in a primary scientific journal; and finally how results must be understood and analyzed in the framework of current knowledge.
  • what kind of methodological and theorical approaches (among those studied) should be used to answer a specific scientific question.
  • what information can be obtained from beavioral analysis in order to understand the neural mechanisms involved in emotional, motivational and cognitive brain processes;


  • to do literature searches on the course topics
  • to analyze, interpret and report on a recent scientific article 
  • to discuss and interpret recent advances as related to previosus knoweledge 

Course delivery

The course is conducted through lectures with an oral explanation of the topics in the program, which are accompanied by explanatory images, and articles made ​​available to students.


Learning assessment methods

The exam will be in an oral form. The exam is aimed at is verifying whether the student has acquired the essential information on the topics covered during the course. Such information will be supplied fully in lessons conducted by the teacher. In addition, during the exam it will be evaluated the ability of the student to process the information acquired and to apply them to the different areas of neuroscience. The ability to expose and discuss course topics iwill be evaluated through a short interview, usually no longer than 30 minutes. Students are expected to expose one two general topics at Teacher’s choice among those discussed during the course. The final grade is the mean of the anwers given during the whole exam. The “cum laude” is assigned if the student has been able to present the topics in the most appropriate language.



The specific topics are: i) control systems of the brain (diffuse projection systems) and related disorders (depression). ii) cognitive processes: learning and memory. Neural basis of learning disorders. iii) Feelings and emotions: main theories and neural bases. iv) The pleasure circuits in the brain and neural mechanisms. Drugs and psychoactive substances. v) Fear and anxiety: brain circuits and diseases. vii) Stress: mechanisms, stress and the immune system, stress and memory disorders, post-traumatic stress disorders (PTSD).

Suggested readings and bibliography


The course is based on the more recent findings in the neuroscience topics. Therefore, there is not appropriate books. During the course, the teacher will provide all the artcles and materials needed to pass the exam.

It may be useful (but it is not sufficient to attend the exam):

Purves D, cabeza R, Huettel SA, LaBar KS, Platt ML, e Woldorff MG Neuroscienze Cognitive (II edizione) ed. Zanichelli

Last update: 01/05/2020 17:49
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