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25 lectures of the Stanford course by Professor Robert Sapolsky “Biology of human behavior”

Биология поведения человека, Роберт Сапольски, лекции

Robert Morris Sapolsky ( born Robert Morris Sapolsky; born April 6, 1957) is an American neuroendocrinologist, professor of biology, neurology and neurosurgery at Stanford University, a researcher and author of books. In addition, he is a research fellow at the National Museum of Kenya.

Sexual behavior , genetics , schizophrenia and much more in 25 lectures of the course of Professor Robert Sapolsky "Biology of human behavior" in Russian!

Who is the course for?

We are pleased to present all 25 lectures of Professor Robert Sapolsky’s Biology of Human Behavior course, which he gave at Stanford University in 2010. The course has been translated and voiced by Vert Dider, which expresses its great gratitude to the subscribers for supporting the translation of lectures!

Robert Sapolsky - honored with several top honors, Presidential Award for Young Researchers ( 1986 ), McArthur Scholarship (1987), Emperor Has No Clothes Award ( 2002 ), John McGovern Award for Achievements in Behavioral Science ( 2007 ), Carl Sagan Prize for Science Popularization ( 2008 ), APA Award for Distinguished Scientific Contributions to Psychology ( 2013 ).

To master the material, the listener does not require a deep knowledge of biology. The professor talks in detail and in an accessible form about the many factors that influence our actions, as well as examines various types of behavior using specific examples: aggressive, sexual, parental and others. Sapolsky himself in the introductory lecture states that absolutely every person is familiar with this subject, regardless of his specialization.

Happy viewing!

Lecture # 1: Introduction

Professor Robert Sapolsky introduces students to the basic principles of the course. He demonstrates the connection between our actions and biological factors using very strange behavior as an example. The professor also talks about the importance of using an interdisciplinary approach so as not to repeat the mistakes of scientists who tried to explain behavior in one direction.

In the lecture, the theory of the synchronization of menstrual cycles, which was later refuted, and the hypothesis on the function of pheromones in humans, which many scientists question, are voiced.

Lecture # 2: The Evolution of Behavior, I

Professor Robert Sapolsky talks about what you can learn about the behavior of an entire species from just a pair of skulls. The professor explains the basic mechanisms of natural selection, how they shape the behavior of animals, making it more altruistic or selfish, and how this is associated with mathematical models of game theory.

Lecture # 3: Evolution of Behavior, II

Professor Robert Sapolsky talks about the complex inter-gender relationships in various species, how infanticide increases the reproductive success of the male, and physiological tricks help the females preserve the offspring. The professor also introduces students to genomic imprinting, evolutionary antrevolts and various types of selection, developing the theme of paired and tournament types in an attempt to determine where a person belongs.

Lecture # 4: Molecular Genetics, I

Professor Robert Sapolsky talks about the principles of evolution at the molecular level, the gradual model and the role of point genetic mutations. We get acquainted with the theory of discontinuous equilibrium put forward by Gould and Eldridge, according to which long periods of stasis are replaced by sharp jumps in evolutionary changes over a short period of time.

Lecture # 5: Molecular Genetics, II

In a second lecture on molecular genetics, Robert Sapolsky focuses on the role of the environment and promoters in gene expression. He explains what is hidden behind the common phrase “Humans and chimpanzees have a 98% match in DNA” and develops the topic of DNA variability, affecting splicing enzyme mutations, transcription factors, and the “jumping gene” phenomenon that have long been considered impossible. The professor also talks about bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics and the unexpected consequences of trying to domesticate black foxes.

Lecture # 6: Genetics of Behavior, I

Robert Sapolsky talks about successes and failures in the search for the genetic basis of behavior, about unsuccessful attempts to isolate the “mathematical gene” and other misconceptions inherent in this area. He explains in detail why it is so difficult to separate the influence of genes from environmental factors, and why mothers influence their children much more strongly than fathers, even at a biological level.

Lecture # 7: Genetics of Behavior, II

Professor Robert Sapolsky talks about how scientists establish a connection between any external trait and the DNA portion responsible for it, as well as what is meant when they talk about the “heritability of a trait”. Particular attention is paid to the role of chance in the formation and development of the organism, as well as to the fact that living conditions predict human behavior better than its genome.

Lecture # 8: Family Recognition

Professor Robert Sapolsky talks about what epigenetics is and how to interpret the news about the discovery of the "gene of something." The main part of the lecture is devoted to the consideration of ways of recognizing relatives in animals, their role in reproduction and building hierarchical relationships.

Lecture # 9: Ethology

Professor Robert Sapolsky talks about successful and not so methods for studying animal behavior. He presents to students a brief history of ethology, which is based on the principle of communicating with animals “in their language”. Also from the lecture we learn about innate reactions and fixed patterns of action, bee dancing, sensory triggers, theory of mind and the secret of universal love for Mickey Mouse.

Lecture # 10: Introduction to Neuroscience, I

Nathan, a graduate student at Stanford University, talks about the nervous system and brain, its departments and functions, the structure and principle of operation of neurons. Anthony, a Stanford graduate student, explains the processes occurring in the synapse and how they affect human behavior. He introduces students to neuropharmacology, as well as various types and functions of neurotransmitters.

Lecture # 11: Introduction to Neuroscience, II

Patrick House, a Stanford graduate student, reveals the neurophysiological mechanisms underlying memory and its various disorders. He talks about the problems associated with isolating the necessary information, about neural networks and categorical thinking. From the junior teacher Dana Tarker, we learn about the autonomic autonomic nervous system, its effect on human organs and sex life, as well as the role of norepinephrine and acetylcholine.

Lecture # 12: Endocrinology

Assistants William Peterson and Tom MacFadden talk about how single-celled organisms survive and how cells communicate in more complex creatures. The lecture discusses the main types of hormones, the principles of their work, the role of endocrine glands and neurotransmitters, as well as complex interactions between the hormonal system and the brain.

Lecture # 13: Neurology and Endocrinology

Professor Robert Sapolsky reveals the nuances of the regulatory system of hormone secretion, talks about positive and negative feedback, autoreceptors and other control mechanisms. The possible consequences of the failure of their work are clearly demonstrated on the example of clinical depression and diabetes.

Lecture # 14: The Limbic System

Professor Robert Sapolsky returns to the consideration of the brain, revealing the concept of "Peipets emotional circle", dwelling in more detail on the limbic system and the functions of its components. He talks about the basic methods used to study the functions of various areas of the brain: anatomical, biochemical, and functional imaging. Particular attention is paid to the mechanisms of mutual regulation between our body and the limbic system.

Lecture # 15: Sexual Behavior, I

Professor Robert Sapolsky talks about the basic elements of animal sexual behavior, introducing students to the concepts of attractiveness, proceptivity and receptivity, and also explains the role of fixed action patterns and the limbic system. He focuses on how the sense of anticipation of the reward and the effect of chance affect us. The difficult question is raised of the relationship of dopamine, oxytocin and vasopressin with the monogamy of various animals, including humans. The topics of homosexuality, transsexuality and triggering incentives are also addressed.

Lecture # 16: Sexual Behavior, II

In this lecture, Professor Robert Sapolsky talks about the existing strategies for sexual behavior in various species, and how this could lead to promiscuity, illegibility and high competition among males. The various methods that they use to reduce the reproductive success of rivals are examined, as well as the protective measures by which females try to protect themselves and their offspring.

Lecture # 17: Sexual Behavior, III; Aggression, I

In this lecture, Professor Sapolsky talks about the evolution of homosexuality, criticizes the theory of forensics of the XIX century, talks about attractiveness, criteria for choosing a partner and homogamy. In the second part, he goes on to discuss the manifestations of aggression and empathy, as well as the role of one of the brain zones, tonsils, on our behavior.

Lecture # 18: Aggression, II

Professor Robert Sapolsky tells how our brain processes information in the presence of a threat, how the frontal lobe helps us to keep ourselves “within the bounds of decency” and what happens when it is damaged. It touches on the complex issue of the role of the environment, education and physiology in the context of the justice system. The professor also explains why love and hate are closer than they seem, and almost the same areas of the brain are responsible for physical and emotional sensations. In the end, he shares a curious story about how, almost half a century ago, the US Army suddenly became interested in the behavior of coyotes, marmots and hyenas.

Lecture # 19: Aggression, II

The third lecture on this topic is devoted to the connection of sensory and moral sensations, mirror neurons and studies of the role of hormones in aggressive behavior. Professor Robert Sapolsky talks about various factors that can affect your behavior, in particular alcohol, testosterone levels and PMS, the effect of which is different from the generally accepted one. Various hypotheses about the connection of aggression with disappointment, fear, emotions, empathy, as well as a possible cause-effect relationship between the legalization of abortion and a drop in crime rates in the USA in the late 80s are examined.

Lecture # 20: Aggression, IV

At the final lesson on the topic of aggression, the issue of the influence of male hormones is discussed, in particular, in girls who underwent prenatal androgenization. Possible genetic and cultural prerequisites for aggressive behavior are examined. Robert Sapolsky talks about pseudo-kinship and pseudo-alienation, which can be used both to maintain the war and to create peace. At the end of the lesson, the professor shares his personal memories of the tragic events in Uganda, which he witnessed.

Lecture # 21: Chaos and reductionism

The professor calls this lecture "one of the most difficult for the entire course." It discusses the history of a reductive approach to the study of the world.

Both the advantages that laid the foundation of modern science, and the limitations that began to appear when trying to describe the human brain.

Professor Robert Sapolsky retells the main provisions of the theory of chaos, introduces the concept of fractal, and then transfers this to a modern understanding of the structure of living systems, in particular, neural connections in the human brain.

The material of the lesson is largely based on the book by James Gleick “Chaos. Creating a new science. "

Lecture # 22: Emergence and Complexity

Professor Robert Sapolsky talks about cellular automata and neural networks, the neurophysiology of creativity and how fractals and the circulatory system, potato chips and mathematical equations, insect behavior and the formation of our brain are connected.

He also explains why the classic reductionist scientific approach stops working when it comes to the fun part.

Lecture # 23: Language

In this lecture, Robert Sapolsky talks about the common features of languages ​​and explains how human language, whether sign or sound, differs from how other animals communicate.

Like any other question, Sapolsky considers language from the point of view of neurosciences: in what areas of the brain the language is “stored”, what are the disturbances in the synthesis and perception of speech.

Cases of learning the language of monkeys, results and conclusions from the experiments are also considered.

Lecture # 24: Schizophrenia

The first 20 minutes of the lecture are devoted to the topic of the previous lesson. The professor talks about the role of genes in the emergence of language and the possibility of the existence of "innate grammar."

In the main body, Robert Sapolsky explains what is meant by the broad concept of schizophrenia. He talks about the history of the search for the causes of schizophrenia, the genes responsible for it.

Robert Sapolsky describes the manifestations of schizophrenic spectrum disorders and their dependence on the culture in which a person lives with the corresponding symptoms.

Lecture # 25: Individual Features

In the last lecture of the course, Robert Sapolsky explains what the difficulties of separating disorders and disorders from individual characteristics inherent in any person are.

The professor also argues on an important topic: how to apply the knowledge that he shared in his lectures.

Scientific activities of the professor

Sapolsky is a professor at Stanford University in a number of departments, including the Department of Biological Sciences, Neurology and Neurological Sciences, and neurosurgery.

As a neuroendocrinologist, he studies stress and degeneration of neurons, and develops gene therapy strategies to protect sensitive neurons from disease. He works on gene transfer methods, exploring the task of strengthening neurons from the negative effects of glucocorticoids. Each year, Sapolsky travels to Kenya to study the population of baboons in order to identify sources of stress in their habitat, as well as the relationship between the individual characteristics of animals and the nature of illnesses associated with stress among them. More precisely, Sapolsky examines the levels of cortisol in alpha males and alpha females and lower in the hierarchy of subordinates to determine their stress levels. One of the earliest but still relevant work on these studies is an article in Scientific American, "Stress in the Wild." He also wrote about neurological impairment and insanity in the American legal system.

Sapolsky’s work is widely noted in the press, primarily in the National Geographic special edition, Stress: A Portrait of a Killer, in several articles in The New York Times, Wired Magazin, and Stanford University Magazine. He is also the author of a number of popular science publications.

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