PSYC 399: Advanced Research in Gambling, Drugs, and Junk Food

This advanced laboratory course provides in-depth training in the experimental methods of behavioral neuroscience of motivation and reward and provides students with hands-on experience with animal research using rodent models. The capstone of the course gives students the opportunity to carry out an independent group animal research project in the lab, which may require a slightly heavier time commitment for the duration of the experiment (typically around two weeks). Students will learn how to handle rats in a behavioral neuroscience research setting and how to design and carry out an experiment to measure reward and motivation using diverse apparatuses such as operant (Skinner) boxes or conditioned place preference chambers. Research typically focuses on rodent models of gambling, diet-induced obesity, and drug addiction. The course also focuses on strengthening students' scientific writing and oral presentation skills.
In addition, the course contains a service learning component in which students will work to develop a brief presentation/talk on a topic related to gambling, eating disorders, or drug addiction. Students will practice their talk in class with the aim of presenting it to local middle and high school students, in order to provide more information and education about these topics and the state of current research surrounding them.