Science Resources

Human Behavioral Biology Video Lectures With Robert Sapolsky at Stanford University

What is the connection between physiology, the brain and behavior? Can genetic risk factors influence aggression? Can prenatal exposure influence the structure and function of certain brain regions? What about affecting your political views? This series of video lectures on human behavioral biology will introduce the complicated interaction between genes, transcription factors, hormones, neurons, environmental influences and many other factors in explaining human behavior.

What causes schizophrenia? How do genes and environment interact to produce biological traits? What is heritability and how is it misunderstood and abused? What are transcription factors? What is the basic structure of neurons? What do neurotransmitters do? How is a hugely diverse physiological response influenced by a small number of hormones? How can we understand messy and complicated feedback systems in the body? Is there a neuroanatomical basis for sexual orientation? Is there a simple connection between testosterone and aggression, or is the situation much more complex? What are the facts behind mirror neurons? What causes the differences between individuals?

Robert Sapolsky is Professor of Biological Sciences and Professor of Neurology and Neurological Sciences at Standford University. He held a course in human behavioral biology at Stanford in 2010 and Stanford University uploaded all 25 lectures to their Youtube channel. The entire playlist is available here. Topics covered include evolution, molecular genetics, behavioral genetics, endocrinology, neuroscience, human sexual behavior, aggression, reductionism and emergence, language, schizophrenia and individual differences. It does not to require any background knowledge.

Follow Debunking Denialism on Facebook or Twitter for new updates.

Lecture 01: Introduction to Human Behavioral Biology

This first lecture introduces the subject of behavioral biology by several case studies and how categorical thinking instead of embracing the complicated intricacies of reality can lead to substantial harm and error.

Lecture 02: Behavioral Evolution I

Sapolsky spends this second lecture on game theory and behavioral evolution: cooperation and altruism in wildebeests, single cell organism and computer programs.

Lecture 03: Behavioral Evolution II

This topic continues with a discussion on the uses and abuses of the heritability concept, whether all traits are adaptive or if some are byproducts of something else, differences and similarities between tournament and pair-bonding species, kin selections in lions and humans, as well as sperm competition using toxins in flies.

Lecture 04: Molecular Genetics I

Changing the subject, this lecture leaps into the exciting world of how evolution works on the molecular level, the basic structure of genes and proteins, alternative splicing and environmental regulation of genetic effects.

Lecture 05: Molecular Genetics II

What is the connection between molecular genetics and evolution? This video covers transcription factors, transposable genetic elements, autoimmune disease and pregnancy, gene duplications in steroid receptors and mismatch to modernity.

Lecture 06: Behavioral Genetics I

Sapolsky combines the insights from the sections of behavioral evolution and molecular genetics to present methods to find out to with degree behavior can be influenced by genes, such as twin and adoption studies as well as the realities on indirect genetic effects.

Lecture 07: Behavioral Genetics II

This lecture contrasts the demonstrated genetic influences on behavior with the modest explanatory power of such effects, the role of random chance and how heritability depends on environment and populations.

Lecture 08: Recognizing Relatives

How can organisms differentiate close relatives and strangers? This video explores the importance of understanding the size of observed effects, how to critically evaluate published papers, IQ and birth order, the relationship between sensory information and imprinting.

Lecture 09: Ethology

This is a crash course in the science of animal behavior and related topics, such as instincts, fixed action patterns and learning.

Lecture 10: Introduction to Neuroscience I

This video reviews the basic facts about neurons, neurotransmitters and their receptors as well as different parts of the brain and their functions.

Lecture 11: Introduction to Neuroscience II

This lecture investigates memory and plasticity as well as the large-scale structure of the nervous system outside the brain, such as the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems.

Lecture 12: Endocrinology

This video is about the basic science of hormones, how they can pass cellular membranes, difference between peptide and steroid hormones, as well as receptor location and abundances.

Lecture 13: Advances Neurology and Endocrinology

Sapolsky delves into more complicated issues, such as the combinatorics of hormones, feedback systems, autoregulatory changes, as well as examples from depression and type-II diabetes.

Lecture 14: Limbic System

This lecture examines the powerful influence of the amygdala, the hippocampus, the septum, the mammillary bodies, and the thalamus and other parts of the limbic system.

Lecture 15: Human Sexual Behavior I

Sapolsky transitions into the latter parts of the course that attempts to bring all the convenient categories discussed previously into explaining more complicated topics such as human sexual behavior.

Lecture 16: Human Sexual Behavior II

What are the biological roots of sexual behavior? This video carries on discussing issues such as the connection between ovulation and sexual arousal, the complicated influence of testosterone on sexual behavior and sexual orientation.

Lecture 17: Human Sexual Behavior III & Aggression I

This video begins with talking about how various sexual signalling systems work and then moves onto the first part of aggression.

Lecture 18: Aggression II

Sapolsky considers the effects of frontal cortex damage and acquired psychopathy as well as moral decision-making.

Lecture 19: Aggression III

The third video on aggression focuses on mirror neurons, displacement aggression, resource deprivations, enzymes in the central nervous systems, clan violence and moral behavior.

Lecture 20: Aggression IV

The final video on aggression looks into early hormonal exposure and adult aggression, the problem with attributing violent crime to brain damage or genetic damage when these only explain a small fraction of the variation in behavior. Also covers pseudospeciation and pseudokinship.

Lecture 21: Chaos and Reductionism

This course turns towards the philosophy of science and topics such as reductionist analysis of biology, non-linearity, non-additivity and chaotic fractal system.

Lecture 22: Emergence and Complexity

Sapolsky ponders how simple rules such as fractal power laws can generate complex systems.

Lecture 23: Language

This video lecture surveys the biological roots of languages, its semantic and cognitive structure of language, as well as its interaction with the limbic system.

Lecture 24: Schizophrenia

In this penultimate lecture, Sapolsky explain the symptoms of schizophrenia and the neurobiology behind the disease and available treatments.

Lecture 25: Individual Differences

This final video finishes the course with why individuals differ, how humanity have progressed from viewing people with diseases as demonic possessed to the real scientific facts as well as an overview of certain physiological problems, such as Stendhal syndrome and trichophagia.

This is an amazing series of video lectures that will expand your knowledge about biology and human behavior. In total, it spans about 40 hours of content, and it is well worth the time investment. It will improve your knowledge of modern biology and applied topics related to human behavior, health and disease. It also provides vital background knowledge and skills to navigate claims made about human behavior online and in the public debate by comparing such claims and the methods behind them to the accumulated scientific knowledge mass.


Debunker of pseudoscience.

2 thoughts on “Human Behavioral Biology Video Lectures With Robert Sapolsky at Stanford University

    • It is really useful. Great against both creationists, race pseudoscience activists and the “women evolved to shop” kind of bullshit abuse of evolution.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this:

Hate email lists? Follow on Facebook and Twitter instead.