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Biology and Human Behavior: The Neurological Origins of Individuality, 2nd Edition

Investigate how the human brain is sculpted by evolution, genes, experience, hormones, and other influences to produce a wide range of behaviors, led by a prominent neurobiologist, zoologist, and MacArthur "genius" grant recipient.
Biology and Human Behavior: The Neurological Origins of Individuality, 2nd Edition is rated 4.8 out of 5 by 138.
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Rated 5 out of 5 by from terrific discussion I would have tremendously enjoyed Dr. Sapolsky in Medical school. I truly enjoyed his delivery and occasional ambiguity toward the scientific community (Ex. the superb attitude of Dr. Barbara McClintock stands out!). I learned so much ! Excellent diagrams.To all :ENJOY!
Date published: 2023-01-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Ties everything together One of the best courses. The professor ties things together in a way that makes the subject much easier to understand. Warning: if you should ever meet the professor in person, don't mention the name B.F. Skinner!
Date published: 2022-11-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A good introduction to the subject. This course provides an excellent introduction to the basic cells, neurons, of the nervous system and how they interact. Your knowledge is built up over a number of lectures at the beginning of the course. Professor Sapolsky moves a lot while delivering the lectures and you see him placing slides of diagrams on a projector - something I haven't seen before on a Great Course. He has his own individual style as he moves around. He is very eloquent and often seems to be thinking out loud and asking himself questions. He doesn't really address the audience much. His lectures are interesting, informative, provocative, often humorous, surprising and sometimes shocking. He has a diagram setting out the 'buckets' that together lead to 'Biology and Human Behavior: the neurological origins of individuality'. These 'buckets' are: population and species attributes, natural selection, genetic makeup, fetal environment, perinatal biology, development, acute hormones, environmental trigger and neurobiology. At the beginning of each lecture he recaps what has been learnt so far. The last few lectures are devoted to the subject of aggression. I enjoyed the lectures but I have a couple of comments. Prior to watching this lecture course I had watched The Great Course called 'Understanding the brain' by Professor Norden. I was very glad I did this. They are completely different courses but I felt that having seen the wonderful multi coloured brain model, descriptions of different parts of the brain, and fascinating micro photographs of nerve cells in Professor Norden's course, provided a very good background for Professor Sapolsky's course. It enhanced my appreciation of his course. I do have a reservation about the course. I had been looking forward to the lectures relating to fetal development. There was discussion about the influence of maternal stress on the developing fetus but no mention about the issue of domestic violence. This was a surprising omission since a number of lectures were devoted to aggression. As an adoptive parent this is an issue that frequently comes up. The adopted children heve often been subjected to neglect and abuse when with their birth families but there has also been domestic violence. Even more surprisingly there was no mention at all of FASD (Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder) which results from women drinking alcohol during pregnancy. It causes brain damage and can cause physical abnormalities too. It is a huge problem in all nations. The brain damage is lifelong. Again many adoptive parents are caring for these children. Sadly many of those affected remain undiagnosed and they can have difficult lives and some end up in prison through involvement with the criminal justice system.
Date published: 2022-09-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent in Every Way I have listened to this course twice in order to make sure that I didn't miss any details. This is clearly presented, relevant, interesting information about neurology and the connection to behavior. It goes beyond more concrete, simple teaching. While this is a complex area, the explanations were easy to follow and to understand with examples that helped to illustrate the points made.
Date published: 2022-09-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The epitome of a great course This course methodically presents neurophysiology in a historical context, with a brief review of the information so far at the beginning of each lecture. Many appropriate examples and references to animal behavior with clear explanations. I just had audio and was able to follow without difficulty.
Date published: 2022-01-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Sapolsky must be the world's best lecturer In a logical, well structured way, this series takes you through the building blocks of the brain and learning, how genes and experiences interact to create behaviour, how we are impacted in utero, testosterone vs nature. Fascinating. Fascinating.
Date published: 2021-06-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from This is the best course I've ever taken. Dr. Sapolsky is an amazing lecturer. It sounds like he teaches the first-year medical students with this material. I am so honored to take this course. I went into a professional health care field for the last 40 years and this type of course was not even available back in late 70's. Thank you for enriching my life.
Date published: 2021-06-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Sapolsky must be the world's best lecturer Deep, thorough but more importantly brilliantly structured and evidenced all the way through.
Date published: 2021-05-26
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When are we responsible for our own actions, and when are we in the grip of biological forces beyond our control? This intriguing question is the scientific province of behavioral biology, a field that explores interactions among the brain, mind, body, and environment that have a surprising influence on how we behave and interact.


Robert Sapolsky

We humans activate the stress-response for reasons of psychological factors, and that's simply not what the system evolved for. If you do that chronically, you're going to get sick.


Stanford University
Dr. Robert Sapolsky is John A. and Cynthia Fry Gunn Professor of Biological Sciences at Stanford University and Professor of Neurology and Neurosurgery in Stanford's School of Medicine. Professor Sapolsky earned his A.B. summa cum laude in Biological Anthropology from Harvard University and his Ph.D. in Neuroendocrinology from The Rockefeller University in New York. He is also a research associate at the Institute of Primate Research operated by the National Museums of Kenya in Nairobi. Dr. Sapolsky is a recipient of a MacArthur genius fellowship. His teaching awards include Stanford University's Bing Award for Teaching Excellence and an award for outstanding teaching from the Associated Students of Stanford University. Professor Sapolsky is the author of several books, including Stress, the Aging Brain and the Mechanisms of Neuron Death (MIT Press, 1992); The Trouble with Testosterone (Macmillan Library Reference, 1997); and Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers: A Guide to Stress-Related Diseases and Coping (W.H. Freeman, 1995), which was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Award. He also regularly contributes to magazines and journals such as Discover, Science, Scientific American, Harper's, and The New Yorker.

By This Professor

Stress and Your Body
Biology and Human Behavior: The Neurological Origins of Individuality, 2nd Edition
Being Human: Life Lessons from the Frontiers of Science
Biology and Human Behavior: The Neurological Origins of Individuality, 2nd Edition


Biology and Behavior-An Introduction

01: Biology and Behavior-An Introduction

Professor Robert Sapolsky outlines the course, emphasizing that there is a neurobiology to who we are; it is vital that we learn about it; and it can be understood best through the interdisciplinary approach of this course....

31 min
The Basic Cells of the Nervous System

02: The Basic Cells of the Nervous System

You begin a trio of lectures on the neurobiology of behavior at the cellular level. An overview of how a single neuron works explores the difference between the neuron's quiescent state, or resting potential, and its excited state, or action potential....

29 min
How Two Neurons Communicate

03: How Two Neurons Communicate

In this lecture you expand your study of neurons to see how two neurons communicate through the use of neurotransmitters-chemical messengers in the brain-and you examine the effects of certain drugs on the brain and on the neurological origins of individuality....

30 min
Learning and Synaptic Plasticity

04: Learning and Synaptic Plasticity

This lecture describes how communication between neurons changes as a result of experience. The focus is on long-term potentiation (LTP) and how the process occurs in the hippocampus, with implications for learning and memory; and in the amygdala, with implications for fear and anxiety....

31 min
The Dynamics of Interacting Neurons

05: The Dynamics of Interacting Neurons

Expanding beyond the scale of the cell, you begin a three-lecture survey of the systems level. In this lecture you look at how neurons sharpen detection signals through inhibition and how layers of neurons that overlap and form networks affect individual memory, pain, and creativity....

31 min
The Limbic System

06: The Limbic System

You investigate how subregions of the brain made of millions of neurons function. The focus is on the limbic system, which is most centrally involved in emotion and in generating emotional behavior. The limbic system will be central to the rest of the course....

31 min
The Autonomic Nervous System (ANS)

07: The Autonomic Nervous System (ANS)

Professor Sapolsky examines how the limbic system regulates the function of the body by way of the autonomic nervous system and its subparts: the sympathetic nervous system and the parasympathetic nervous system....

30 min
The Regulation of Hormones by the Brain

08: The Regulation of Hormones by the Brain

The first of two lectures on hormones and behavior examines how the limbic system regulates the body through the release of many types of hormones. You review the nature of this regulation and the basic ways hormones work....

31 min
The Regulation of the Brain by Hormones

09: The Regulation of the Brain by Hormones

This lecture considers the converse of the brain's regulation of hormones, namely, the hormones' regulation of the brain. How can hormones change the function and even the very structure of the brain? A key point of this and the preceding lecture is to refute the view that hormones "cause" behaviors....

30 min
The Evolution of Behavior

10: The Evolution of Behavior

The first of three lectures on the evolution of the brain and behavior reviews the mechanisms of evolution and then looks at the ways species can maximize through behavioral means the number of copies of their genes passed on to the next generation....

31 min
The Evolution of Behavior-Some Examples

11: The Evolution of Behavior-Some Examples

You investigate how the evolution of behavior helps explain, and even predict, social behavior in numerous species that vary in how aggressive they are, whether they are monogamous or polygamous, and whether males participate in childcare, among other traits....

30 min
Cooperation, Competition, and Neuroeconomics

12: Cooperation, Competition, and Neuroeconomics

You review the evolution of competition and how the brain functions under different settings of competition. The formal analysis of such behavior, called game theory, is introduced and framed in both the context of the evolution of such strategizing and the sort of brains that can accomplish it....

31 min
What Do Genes Do? Microevolution of Genes

13: What Do Genes Do? Microevolution of Genes

In this first of four lectures on the role of genes in sculpting behavior, you examine what a gene is and does. The main intellectual thrust of this module is to demonstrate the futility of the nature-versus-nurture debate when considering genes and the brain....

30 min
What Do Genes Do? Macroevolution of Genes

14: What Do Genes Do? Macroevolution of Genes

Evolution can be formally defined as changes in the function and distribution of genes in populations over time. But what exactly evolves in a gene on the molecular level? This lecture reviews what mutations are on that level and how they can affect behavior....

30 min
Behavior Genetics

15: Behavior Genetics

How can you tell when a behavior has a genetic component? This lecture introduces the field of behavior genetics, which seeks to determine the extent that genes explain qualities such as intelligence, aggression, or introversion/extroversion....

29 min
Behavior Genetics and Prenatal Environment

16: Behavior Genetics and Prenatal Environment

The basic premise of behavior genetics is that when research controls for environment it can reveal the effects of genes. This lecture shows that this is virtually impossible to do because genes and environment interact constantly, particularly in the realm of behavior. The lecture also explores the results of environmental effects on fetuses....

31 min
An Introduction to Ethology

17: An Introduction to Ethology

This is the first of two lectures on ethology, the study of animals in their natural habitat, and insights about the human brain and behavior that can be gleaned from it. Here, Professor Sapolsky gives an overview of ethology, a discipline that developed to counter behaviorist psychology....

30 min

18: Neuroethology

This lecture explores neuroethology, the study of the neural mechanisms mediating the naturalistic behavior of animals. In particular, you look at how the functioning of the limbic system varies among species and how the human limbic system can be understood in that context....

30 min
The Neurobiology of Aggression I

19: The Neurobiology of Aggression I

The final module of the course applies the previous lessons to the study of aggression. In this lecture you explore the neural bases of aggression-first the neurochemistry of aggressive behavior, then its neuroanatomy, emphasizing the limbic system and the frontal cortex....

31 min
The Neurobiology of Aggression II

20: The Neurobiology of Aggression II

This lecture poses two questions: What environmental events can trigger the limbic system to exert aggressive behavior seconds to minutes later? And how do hormones modulate the sensitivity of the brain to those environmental triggers? You focus on the hormone testosterone....

31 min
Hormones and Aggression

21: Hormones and Aggression

The first part of this lecture explores how patterns of hormone exposure around the time of birth can influence adult patterns of aggression. The second part examines how genes may influence the neurobiology of aggression but never outside the context of strong environmental interactions....

31 min
Early Experience and Aggression

22: Early Experience and Aggression

You look at the role of environmental factors in aggression occurring days to decades later. In particular, you examine the effect of reward and punishment, early experience and social learning, and the ways those experiences can shape the development of relevant parts of the brain....

30 min
Evolution, Aggression, and Cooperation

23: Evolution, Aggression, and Cooperation

The final lecture in this module looks at the evolution of aggression, examining which evolutionary factors promote aggressive behavior and how evolutionary biology gives scientists insights into ways that aggression might be contained....

30 min
A Summary

24: A Summary

How much do insights into the neurobiology of human behaviors threaten a person's sense of self and individuality? Professor Sapolsky summarizes what science has learned about the neurobiology of individual differences, stressing the profound implications of this knowledge....

32 min