Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies

371 Varner Hall
Varner Hall Room 217
Rochester, MI 48309-4485
(location map)
(248) 370-2154

Dr. Joe Shively
Interim Director, BALS Program
Associate Dean, College of Arts and Sciences


Biology + Psychology

Biopsychology (also known as physiological psychology, behavioral neuroscience or psychobiology) is an interdisciplinary field that analyzes how the brain and neurotransmitters influence our behaviors, thoughts and feelings. Specifically, biopsychology is the application of the principles of biology (in particular neurobiology), to the study of physiological, genetic, and developmental mechanisms of behavior in human and non-human animals. The focus of the work in this field is at the level of nerves, neurotransmitters, brain circuitry and the basic biological processes that underlie normal and abnormal behavior. Most typically, experiments in behavioral neuroscience involve non-human animal models (such as rats and mice, and non-human primates), which have implications for better understanding of human pathology.

Biopsychologists have an understanding of biological processes, anatomy and physiology. Components of specific interest to professionals in this field are the brain, neurotransmitters and the nervous system. Consequently, students wishing to pursue this field of study should take courses that help them understand the relationship between our biological make up (hormones, chemicals, etc.) and our behavior.


Educational requirements for biopsychologists include at least a bachelor's degree in biopsychology, biology, psychology or neuroscience. Employment opportunities are greater for those who pursue a master's degree and most employers require several years of experience working in studies related to biology, neuroscience or both.

Good candidates for employment must have excellent organizational and analytical skills, as well as good computer database skills for data collection. These professionals work in a laboratory environment and may study laboratory animals or analyze human samples.

Many biological psychologists have an interest in a particular condition or part of the brain, and research opportunities are available in a number of disciplines. Neuroscientists concentrate on discovering causes and affects of brain injury, mental illness, hormones and stress, typically examining neural function in laboratory animals. Pharmaceutical companies employ biological psychologists to study the influences of certain drugs on the brain, development and mental stability of humans. Other employers include hospitals, health care organizations and government agencies.

Entry-level opportunities in biological psychology consist primarily of assistant and coordinator positions. Research assistants typically conduct the hands-on work necessary for experiments in the field. The work is dependent on the interests of the assistant's supervising professor or researcher and may include gathering data from human research participants, performing simple surgical procedures or conducting experiments on animal subjects.

Mid-level and advanced careers include academic, counseling and scientific research positions. Biological psychologists teach in high schools, community colleges and postsecondary institutions. Often, those at the college level combine a teaching profession with research in the field and may benefit from finding employment with a public research university.

The information about biopsychology described above was obtained from the following websites (as well as the websites listed in the descriptions). People interested in pursuing a career as a biopsychologist or wanting to just learn more about the field can find a wealth of information and resources at these sites: International Behavioral Neuroscience Society (IBNS) and  International Society for Developmental Psychobiology.