Biology of Brain and Behavior

About Us
The Biological Psychology area encompasses the subdisciplines of Comparative Psychology, Behavioral Neuroscience and Animal Behavior.

Our Approach
Our experimental methods range from behavioral tasks, molecular genetic and neuroimaging methods, cellular recording, immunohistochemistry, behavioral pharmacology, hormone and immune assessment. Conceptual issues, such as experimental design, and the relevance to human clinical and social conditions are emphasized.

Our Research
Topic areas investigated by our faculty include psychoneuroimmunology, hormone-behavior relationships, neurobiology of stress and arousal, psychopharmacology, developmental psychobiology, sensory processes, and the neural organization of the cerebral cortex. Age-related changes during development, and the impact of stress on health and behavior are also important foci.

The Program
Students sponsored by faculty in this area are trained in theory and methods required for understanding the biological bases of behavior. The doctoral track in behavioral neuroscience provides training in specific research methods and techniques needed to assess brain and peripheral physiological mechanisms. Our students can also pursue training in theories and methodologies involved in the study of animal behavior. Coursework and research provide a unique interdisciplinary experience with a strong emphasis on evolutionary/ecological principles and proximate mechanisms, including communication and the role of hormones and social relationships underlying the expression of behavior. Our goal is to train outstanding students with a special interest in integrating knowledge across traditional discipline lines.

Many facilities are available for graduate training, including the department’s Harlow Primate Laboratory, internationally known for its studies of primate development and learning. Many primate projects also take advantage of the neuroimaging resources at UW and benefit from the Wisconsin National Primate Research Center with its large rhesus monkey and marmoset colonies. Within the Brogden Psychology Building, research programs utilize many other small animal species.

Our program continues to grow and incorporate new perspectives. Our students and faculty interact and collaborate with the Departments of Anthropology, Comparative Biosciences, Psychiatry, Wildlife Ecology, and Zoology, as well as the Neurosciences Training Program, Institute on Aging, and Center for Excellence in Women’s Health Research. The University of Wisconsin provides a diverse and stimulating academic environment for training in Biological Psychology.


Anthony Auger
Our research is directed at how steroid receptors and the social environment interact to influence brain development and subsequently behavior in a normal or abnormal manner.

Allyson Bennett
My research centers on how the interplay between early environments, experiences, and genes contribute to individual variation in psychological and physical health across the lifespan.

Craig Berridge
My research focuses on the actions of neurotransmitters, particularly catecholamines and select neuropeptides, in the regulation of behavioral state and state-dependent cognitive processes (working memory, attention).

Chris Coe
My research is concerned with mind/body relationships and nature/nurture issues that affect health and vulnerability to illness.

Richard Davidson
Research in my laboratories is focused on cortical and subcortical substrates of emotion and affective disorders, including depression and anxiety.

Rick Jenison
Computational neuroscience; value-based decision-making; functional and effective connectivity in the human brain; point-process modeling of neural ensembles; computational models of the basal ganglia and amygdala.

James Li
My research examines the interplay between genes and environments that contribute to the development of child externalizing problems.

Cathy Marler
My research centers around bi-directional interactions between endocrinology , animal behavior and the social environment.

Seth Pollak
Developmental risk (child poverty, child maltreatment); mechanisms of developmental change; experience-dependent learning; stress regulation; children’s health; development and evolution of emotion; developmental psychopathology

Brad Postle
short-term memory/working memory; attention; consciousness; fMRI; TMS; EEG

Tim Rogers
I am interested in understanding human semantic memory; that is, our knowledge about the meanings of words, objects, and events.

Yuri Saalmann
Cognitive control, conscious awareness, brain connectivity, neural dynamics, neural coding.