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PSYC317 Biopsychology

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Linking neuroscience and psychology: how the brain drives behaviour and how behaviour affects the brain.

Biopsychology is the study of behaviour from a biological perspective. Consider: Why do we eat? Sleep? Get stressed? Have sex? Take drugs? These behaviours are driven by biological processes occurring in the brain, often in response to cues from the environment.

In this class we will combine the disciplines of neuroscience and psychology to build an appreciation of why - biologically - we do some of the things we do.

Paper title Biopsychology
Paper code PSYC317
Subject Psychology
EFTS 0.15
Points 18 points
Teaching period Semester 2 (On campus)
Domestic Tuition Fees (NZD) $1,092.15
International Tuition Fees (NZD) $5,004.75

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PSYC 210 and PSYC 211 and PSYC 212
Schedule C
Arts and Music, Science
For Neuroscience students the prerequisite is PSYC111.

With departmental approval, a student who has achieved a grade of at least B+ in each of PSYC 210 and 212 may take no more than one of PSYC 313-328 concurrently with PSYC 211.

With departmental approval, a student who has achieved a grade of at least B+ in PSYC 211 may take no more than one of PSYC 313-328 concurrently with PSYC 210 and 212.


Teaching staff

Dr Kristin Hillman

Paper Structure

This paper presents a survey of the following topics:

  • History of biopsychology
  • Hunger and eating
  • Sleeping
  • Sexual behaviours
  • Stress responses
  • Emotional responses
  • Addictive behaviours
  • Clinical case studies

Each week's topic will be presented in lecture, and then, a short supplementary reading will be assigned. One week's reading may consist of a few newspaper articles while another week's reading may be a chapter from a popular science book. All readings will be accessible via Blackboard.

The final mark consists of 50% internal assessment (two in-class tests; 25% each) and 50% external assessment (final exam; 50%).

Terms: A student who completes fewer than 50% of the assignments in a paper will not meet terms and may not sit the final examination in that paper.

Teaching Arrangements

One 1-hour lecture and one 2-hour lecture per week.

Small in-class laboratory demonstrations, led by the lecturer, may occur within some of the 2-hour lecture periods. There is not a separate laboratory/practical component for this paper.

Lecture attendance is a critical component of this paper as the majority of test and exam questions draw from material presented in-class.


Textbooks are not required for this paper.

As a reference text, students may wish to use Introduction to Biopsychology (9th edition, International edition), by John P.J. Pinel. Efforts will be made to have copies of this text available on-reserve at the library.

Graduate Attributes Emphasised
Interdisciplinary perspective, Lifelong learning, Critical thinking, Cultural understanding, Self-motivation.
View more information about Otago's graduate attributes.
Learning Outcomes
Students who successfully complete the paper will develop
  • A foundational understanding of major topics in biopsychology
  • An appreciation of how nature and nurture both contribute towards behaviour
  • Recognition that there is a biological basis to normal and abnormal behavioural patterns

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Semester 2

Teaching method
This paper is taught On Campus
Learning management system


Stream Days Times Weeks
A1 Monday 12:00-12:50 28-31, 33-34, 36-37, 39-41
Tuesday 12:00-12:50 28-31, 33-34, 36-37, 39-41
Wednesday 12:00-12:50 28-31, 33-34, 36-37, 39-41