Academic journal article Journal of Psychology and Theology

Comic Books, Mock Trials, and Zombies: Engaging Integrative Biopsychology Themes in the Classroom

Academic journal article Journal of Psychology and Theology

Comic Books, Mock Trials, and Zombies: Engaging Integrative Biopsychology Themes in the Classroom

Article excerpt

Several topics in biopsychology can be used to explore the integrative process in the classroom. While many of these can be addressed in a straightforward lecture/discussion format, there are a variety of pedagogical approaches that can be utilized to engage students in a more robust fashion. Three integrative topics relevant to biopsychology courses (embodiment, emergent agency, and enhancement) are addressed, and recommendations for how to incorporate online resources, case studies, novels, cinema, and classroom activities are provided. From contemporary film and television, to comic books and recent medical technologies and drugs, a variety of classroom exercises and atypical pedagogical assignments can offer students the opportunity to investigate and engage in the process of Christian integration.

Biological psychology may be defined as a subdiscipline of psychology that investigates bodily processes, physiological systems, and the nervous system's involvement in psychological processes and behavior. There is often a great deal of differentiation within biopsychology, however, made among those who study biological psychology--particularly in how they refer to themselves. For example, one researcher may prefer to think of herself as a behavioral neuroscientist (someone who is trained as an interdisciplinary researcher who studies how the nervous system produces behavior), another may refer to himself as a clinical neuropsychologist (someone who is trained as a clinical psychologist who works in a medical context examining cognitive and neurological processes), while a psycho-neuroimmunologist would say that he or she examines the connections between the brain and immune system, and how stress influences any number of psychological experiences (e.g., hypothyroidal depression, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, environmental toxins, and puberty). Suffice it to say, that many undergraduate students in psychology can be intimidated by this technical jargon.

A typical biopsychology survey course can cover a broad range of topics. These topics include: the organization of the nervous system and the brain, neurodevelopment, neurotransmitters and hormones, sensory systems, motor outputs, homeostasis (i.e., eating, drinking, and temperature regulation), reproduction/ sex, emotion, and disorders of the brain. Significant attention is given to neurodevelopmental and degenerative disorders such as Spina Bifida, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, Parkinson's disease, and traumatic brain/ spinal injuries. Psychopathology (e.g., depression, Schizophrenia, anxiety disorders) and memory disorders, such as Alzheimer's Dementia, are also addressed due to their relevance to clinical psychology. Biopsychology should not, however, be limited to the clinical realm. Within the last 50 years there have been numerous advances in experimental methodology and noninvasive brain imaging technologies (e.g., functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Diffusion Tensor Imaging) that have opened up a window into the black box of the mind. The result of this is that biopsychologists now find themselves able to more direcdy examine the neural correlates of cognitive processes of non-dinical populations. These brain imaging technologies are now more available and accessible to researchers, and as a result there has been a steady stream of brain imaging studies on psychopathology and cognitive processes that have been conducted. The popular press has noticed this and highlighting brain imaging studies has become increasingly common in the media (O'Connor, Rees, & Joffe, 2012). Due to these changes in research output and the visibility of brain science in the public arena, it has become increasingly important for instructors of biopsychology to examine the intersections between brain science and Christian theology. For Christian scholars desiring to instruct and guide students in the integration of biopsychology and Christian theology, it is essential to identify a handful of key issues and themes to be engaged in a relevant way for students. …

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