This semester, the reading/writing assignment focuses on four broad topics addressed in this course.  The basic assignment is to find one article in the primary literature about EACH of the following four topics, and summarize that article in no more than two double-spaced printed pages.  Each of these summaries will be evaluated on a 10-point basis, contributing up to 40 points (combined) towards your final grade.

The four broad areas are:

  1. A specific neurotransmitter or hormone involved in regulating some behavior
  2. Neuroscience of sociosexual or sexual/reproductive behaviors
  3. Neuroscience of sleep, stress, and/or neurodegenerative disorders
  4. Neuroscience of a psychological syndrome or disorder

Each summary should include:

  1. Bibliographic information, preferably in APA format (single-spaced)
  2. Brief introduction to the topic and study
  3. Hypothesis or hypotheses of the study
  4. Description of the method, including participants (human or nonhuman)
  5. Description of independent and/or dependent variables (depending on the method used)
  6. Mention or brief description of any tests, tasks, questionnaires, surveys, etc. used to get the data of the study
  7. Primary results
  8. Implications of the study – what knowledge was obtained?

A sample summary will be provided.

Summaries should be done in the order indicated above, as that reflects our progression through the material of this course.  There might be some overlap in the studies you find, such as one addressing how stress affects sleep (summary 3) or how sleep can be disrupted by major depressive disorder (summary 4).  Similarly, you might address the hormone estrogen in the first summary, and have it involved in some aspect of sexual behavior for the second paper – but different studies should be summarized, not the same study for two (or more) summaries.

As mentioned elsewhere in this syllabus, it will take me some time to read through all of your papers – please observe the page limit indicated.  If a summary is submitted more than 48 hours before the specified due date, there will be a one point bonus awarded (up to four total, which is a 10% bonus if all four points are earned).  Summaries submitted late will receive a 1 point penalty; late is after midnight CT on the dates indicated below.

The publication or copyright dates of the articles summarized should be no older than 2016, so relatively recent literature is required. The component articles should address some aspect of brain structure or function and/or actions of neurotransmitters or hormones, and not be just a description of a disorder (in the cases of summaries 2, 3, and 4) – remember that this is a course in behavioral neuroscience, not physiology, genetics, abnormal psychology, or clinical psychology. As we progress through the course, you will become familiar with many brain structures and chemicals (neurotransmitters, neuromodulators, hormones, and neurohormones).  Please be as specific as possible; for example, focus on schizophrenia rather than “psychological disorders” or diabetes rather than “endocrine and metabolic disorders.”

     Studies summarized can have had either human or nonhuman participants. There is a folder on Canvas that contains links to many journals that have course-relevant articles in them; keep in mind that not every article in these journals is appropriate for these summaries (or related directly to the content of this course).

I am not sure at this point how summaries will be submitted, whether directly to me or through Canvas.  That will get figured out in due time.

Due dates:

Summary 1:  Monday, September 28

Summary 2:  Friday, October 23

Summary 3:  Friday, November 6

Summary 4:  Wednesday, December 2

     If an article is too complex, too technical, or just too overwhelming, please select another one; please do not waste your time struggling through something that you do not or cannot understand.  Remember that there must be a behavioral/psychological and physiological or neurological aspect to the studies summarized.  Review articles, meta-analyses, editorials, case studies, research proposals, and letters to editors are not appropriate for this assignment.  Studies must be empirical (data-based).

     Evaluation of these summaries will be based, in part, on (a) the presentation of the information of the individual studies (the content) and (b) the concise and clear writing of the summary.  The overall presentation is important, too, so please proofread your work, check spellings, etc.  Do not rely on any computer programs to check/correct your spelling, as most of the relevant terms will not be included in the computer dictionaries.  In short, submit a paper of which you are proud.  Do not include the title of the article in the text of your paper; refer to the articles with the author(s)’ names and date of publication, which is APA format.  There will be a point deducted if you include the article title(s) in the text or body of your paper.  Give each summary a clear and concise title that conveys the topic addressed.  Submitted summaries will be shared on Canvas so other students can read and benefit from your work.

     The purposes of this type of assignment are many.  First, the textbook cannot contain ALL the information related to some topic, nor can everything be covered in class, so this is an opportunity to read about some other work in Behavioral Neuroscience and related fields.  Second, by reading journal articles (primary literature), you should get a feel for the complexity of the research process, especially in contrast to the way research is presented in the textbook and in class.  Third, by looking through journals and abstracts, some “incidental learning” occurs.  Fourth, writing the relatively short summary should foster concise, scientific-type writing.  Please do not rely on abstract services, such as PsycINFO or Science Direct, for the material to be included in your summary.  Get the full text, either online through the University Library or from the journal itself.  If you need help finding an article to summarize, please let me know and I can help. [Please do not buy articles; you can request articles through interlibrary loan (ILLiad); if you are having trouble getting an article that you want, let me (instructor) know – maybe I can help you get it. ILLiad takes a little bit of time, so plan ahead!]

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