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.

Psychology 230Introduction to Biopsychology

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.

Psychology 436Drugs of Abuse, Brain and Behavior

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).

Psychology 437Special Topics in Biopsychology: Biopsychology of Stress

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.

Psychology 437Special Topics in Biopsychology: What Pavlov’s Dogs Can Teach Us About Behavior in Today’s Society: A Behavioral and Neurobiological Perspective

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.

Neuroscience 615Behavioral and Cognitive Neuroscience

This is a graduate level course which is part of the Neuroscience 602 module. It is intended for first and second year graduate students in the biomedical sciences. We use an interdisciplinary approach to introduce relevant topics and animal models used in the field. Topics include addiction, learning and memory, fear conditioning, gut-brain axis (microbiome), cognition and sex differences; and each of these are discussed with respect to psychiatric illness. By the end of the course, students are expected to:
1) appreciate the importance of good experimental design, 2) have an excellent comprehension of the models, tools and techniques used in behavioral neuroscience,
3) be able to critically evaluate manuscripts in the field, and 4) have a good understanding of the neural circuits and mechanisms that contribute to both motivated and maladaptive behaviors.


BrainsRule!Community outreach program

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.

Brain Awareness Week!

Each spring, around the time of Brain Awareness Week, Flagel Lab members will venture out into the community to teach elementary students (K-5th grade!) about the brain and how to keep it healthy. It is a challenge to adapt to teaching all of these different age groups, but also a lot of fun! We rely on help from Backyard Brains for some of the older students.