As I write this preface, I am attending the International Behavioral Neuroscience Society meeting in Budapest, Hungary. After an engaging dinner discussing recent neuroscience findings with both long-time and new colleagues, I am reminded of how fortunate I am to be a professor and researcher in the fascinating field of behavioral neuroscience. As I have spent the past several years writing Biological Psychology, I have become a student of Biopsychology once again—and have encountered exciting and fascinating neurobiology information every step along the way. Writing this book has been an incredible learning journey, one that has reintroduced my brain to, well, my brain.
What about you? Have you met your brain? My hope is that your brain has performed so well throughout your life that you haven’t had to give it a second thought. Some of you, however, have no doubt been introduced to your brain as a result of challenges such as depression, addiction, concussions, or neurological disease. Regardless of the nature of your introduction thus far, I look forward to beginning this brain journey with you—introducing you to the most exciting and relevant past, present, and future brain stories.
If you have ever wondered why you have to study harder than your best friend to earn an A, are more fearful of insects than your sister, or why you tend to feel sadder than others in your peer group, you have embarked on your own biopsychological investigations. In my own research endeavors, I am so captivated by the many unanswered questions in biopsychology that my undergraduate students and I are never at a loss for research projects. In our small laboratory, we have been busy trying to answer real-life questions such as:
- How does a mother rat know how to take care of her offspring (appx 12-14!) without the benefit of parenting classes?
- What makes wild raccoons so curious, bold, and mischievous, allowing them to adapt to new environments all over the world?
- How does a natural environment affect us differently than an artificial environment?
- What effect does the stress we all encounter in life have on our brain, behavior, and overall health?
- How can we build resilience against the toxicity of that stress?
- In addition to drugs, what are the most effective ways to treat psychiatric illnesses?
If you speak with another biopsychologist, he or she will likely be interested in a completely different set of research questions—all just as relevant for enhancing our understanding of how to maintain healthy brains—Better living through Biopsychology!
As a professor at Randolph-Macon College for 27 years and, more recently, at the University of Richmond, I never tire of sharing information about the brain with my students. It is my sincerest wish that you, too, will share in the excitement as we begin this fascinating journey. So, buckle up your brain and get ready for a very exciting ride!