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Area Chair: Thore Bergman, Professor, Psychology and Ecology & Evolutionary Biology

2023-24 Biopsychology Area


The Biopsychology Area in the Department of Psychology at the University of Michigan synthesizes research on the brain, behavior, and evolution. Our focus is on studying animals to answer proximate (how) and ultimate (why) questions about brains, minds, and behavior. Members of our area study many aspects of behavior including reward processes, decision-making, motivation, memory, emotion, attention, mating, reproduction, aggression, affiliation and more. Much of our work aims at understanding animal behavior in ecologically-valid contexts, accounting for shifts with circadian rhythms and seasonality, or how differences according to sex, health status, life history, and species can shape behavior.

Research across the Biopsychology Area comprises work both on campus with rodents and humans, and work at multiple field sites with different species including squirrels, voles, meerkats, lemurs, monkeys, and apes. To do this work, members draw on diverse theoretical approaches from neuroscience, cognitive science, endocrinology, behavioral ecology, evolutionary biology, and biological anthropology. Across the area, researchers utilize cutting-edge methods to understand behavior from multiple levels of analysis. In the lab, this includes in-vivo recording, optogenetics, and molecular biochemistry. In the field, this includes behavioral experiments, biological sampling, bio-logging, and long-term observations and demography of wild animals. The interdisciplinary nature of our work means various members of our area have strong ties to other departments and units at the university, including the Neuroscience Graduate Program, the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, the Department of Anthropology, the Department of Biomedical Engineering, the Department of Otolaryngology, the Michigan Neuroscience Institute, and the Weinberg Institute for Cognitive Science.

The Ph.D. Program in Biopsychology is strongly research-oriented. Graduate students typically enter our program to work with a specific mentor or mentors, and then engage in a course of study focused on either behavioral neuroscience or the evolution of behavior. Prospective students can learn more about the program and application process here.

Our core research mission encompasses the following:

  • In our behavioral neuroscience laboratories on campus, we use cutting edge techniques to reveal how neural systems mediate psychological functions and behavior.
  • In our domestic and international field work, we aim to understand cognitive and physiological processes that play out in the natural world as well as the evolutionary consequences of these behaviors. We further aim to promote capacity-building and exchange of knowledge with local researchers and partner institutions.
  • The Biopsychology Area is committed to fostering a safe and supportive research culture for our members regardless of race, ethnicity, national origin, immigration status, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability status, socioeconomic status, or religion. The Department of Psychology as a whole is committed to supporting our diverse community and fostering excellence across the psychological sciences.