Biological Basis of Behavior / Introduction to Psychophysiology

(This the BCIA General Biofeedback Course)

45 CEs, Course Fee $750

Taught by Richard A. Sherman, Ph.D.

Richard A. Sherman

Richard A. Sherman

M.S., Ph.D. (Program Director)

Course Concept and Description:

This course is set at the level of a typical 3 credit post-licensure, introductory level science course. It is a difficult course which takes lots of work. Don’t take this course if you can’t handle graduate level science courses or are not motivated sufficiently to work on your own.  During this 45 CE course, students learn by watching audiovisual lectures, reading assignments from materials provided and standard texts, and interacting with their instructor via e-mail. They answer short essay questions after each lecture rather than taking exams. Previous students have found that this course takes between 45 and 95 hours of actual work to complete.

 This course explores the manifold ways the brain and body work together to produce behavior and the cycle between behavior and physiology. The course begins with a description of the body’s organizational structure and genetics as related to behavior. The basic physiological ways information is received from the external and internal environments through a variety of sensors and then processed by the hormonal / nervous system are described. Typical psychophysiological dysfunctions and interventions are also described.  You should have taken undergraduate biology and psychology before taking this course.


Home study supported by e-mail chats after each unit is completed. The lecture portion of the course is presented through a series of audiovisual lectures profusely illustrated by power-point slides. Reading assignments in the Pinel book parallel the lectures. There are no lectures for a few of the topics. After watching the lecture and reading the chapters, you will answer a brief series of questions. The answered questions are then e-mailed to the instructor. You and the instructor will discuss each unit via e-mail chat after your answers are assessed.

How you learn:

Students will understand how the field relates to human activities, evolution and Behavioral Genetics – evolution of behavior and communication, genetics of behavior, anatomy and physiology of the Central and Peripheral Nervous Systems, hormones and behavior – pheromones, sex, nerve – hormone interactions, mechanisms of Sensation/Perception – vision, hearing, touch (pain, electrical), smell, taste,             balance/location, etc., motor control systems, eating and drinking disorders, biological rhythms and sleep, mechanisms of drug addiction,  learning, Language, and Memory, the Malfunctioning Brain, emotions – stress, aggression, mental illness, and psychophysiological dysfunctions and interventions. They will learn to integrate these principles into their patient interactions to improve clinical outcomes.



Hearing impaired people can view the slides only as virtually all of the material presented in the lectures is typed onto the slides. Visually impaired people can concentrate on the verbal lectures as the slide material is repeated in the lecture accompanying each slide.

Accessing course materials:

When you purchase the course, the course materials will be sent to you via a large file transfer program.

NOTE: When you access your course, you will see a list of files in one or more modules.

The files are in the following order:

  1. Introductory files marked “read this __ (first, etc.)
  2. Power point talks – marked with numbers.
  3. Text files in alphabetical order
  4. Movies (near the bottom)

When you click on the name of a file, a screen comes up which shows the first slide or bit of the file. Don’t try to view the entire file from this preview. Rather, you must download each file by clicking the word “download” followed by the file name which appears just above the preview.

All of the text files are in MS Word or PDF formats and the slides are in Power Point files.

You may need to download the free program “adobe reader” from the web to view the PDF files.

Some of the text files have a “.docx” suffix. If you have an older version of MS Word, you may need to download a free patch from Microsoft to view these files.

Please note that if you do not have PowerPoint on your computer, you may (or may not) have difficulty viewing the lecture. If you do have difficulty, you can download a free program called “PowerPoint viewer 97” from Microsoft’s web site by going to http://office.microsoft.com/downloads/200/ppview97.aspx  You can not print from this program.

If you are using a MAC type of computer, you must have a current version of “quicktime”. If you do not have it, you can download it for free from the web.

There is no need to print out any of the supporting material.

Each topic (subject) I cover consists of one or more Power-Point slide sets and readings in MS word and PDF files. The order of the lecture topics is listed at the end of the (a) course outline and (b) the review questions file. These files also list the readings which accompany each lecture.

The order of the presentation topics is listed (a) near the end of this overview and (b) in the review questions file.

If you are not familiar with biofeedback, you may want to read the MS Word text files entitled “rehab chapter” and “enabling chapter”.

This is intended to be an interactive course. A good portion of the money you spent on

 this course covers giving you my time and attention. Please take advantage of my

 availability to answer your questions – especially about how this material relates

 to biofeedback. Don’t wait for the end of the course to ask questions.  

The lectures are divided into individual recordings. Each recording is between 1/2 and 2 hours long. The lectures consist of a series of slides with my voice in the background.

Please note that the “slides” are not really the type of slides used to do a presentation in front of an audience. Rather, they are more like pages from a book intended to be viewed on your computer monitor. Thus, they have much greater density of material than would be found on a regular slide.

To hear my voice and to see the slides best, you need to view the slides using Power Point’s “view slide show” setting. When in Power Point, go to “view” on the top bar of the power point display. Select “view slide show” so the slide occupies your entire screen.

To advance slides, double click the down arrow key on your key board (not the arrow on the “2” key). You can see and hear the preceding slide by pressing the up arrow key. The slides are NOT set to advance automatically so you can spend as long on each as you wish.

To leave the slide show, move your cursor around slowly near the lower left edge of the screen until a small, translucent box appears on the slide. Click it for options including “end show”.  

If you are in the full screen “view slide show” and your computer’s sound is on, you should hear my voice without doing anything more. If you can’t hear me, something is wrong with your sound system.

Computer and Computer Knowledge Requirements:

Anybody with a modern computer and a bit of basic understanding of computer operation (at the level of being able to send e-mails) can play this course with minimal problems. You must have a computer (a) capable of connecting to the internet and running a typical internet program, (b) containing/running a modern word processor such as Microsoft word or Word Perfect, (c) the capability to play sounds such as music (has speakers and appropriate software which normally come with any modern computer), and (d) a slide viewing program such as Power Point (you can probably get a slide viewing program free off the internet if you don’t have one). Any modern (e.g., built within the last ten years), IBM style computer running Windows 98 and more recent platforms (e.g., XP or Windows 8) should be able to do this. Speed, hard disk size, and RAM are not factors for computers in the above category.

Dozens of students have used recent Apple products (MACs etc.) for the course however they frequently have more difficulty playing the course materials than PC users do.

If you are using a MAC type of computer, you must have a current version of “quicktime”. If you do not have it, you can download it for free from the web.

Prerequisites & professional training requirements:

The course is far easier for people who have taken undergraduate courses in general biology and general psychology. If you haven’t had them, contact us before registering. You will do much better in the course if you have already taken our “Anatomy and Physiology for Behavioral Clinicians” course.

This course is intended for licensed / certified clinicians, teachers and coaches. None of the instructional material offered will provide you with the clinical skills needed to apply the psychophysiological assessment and interventional techniques you will learn in the clinical environment unless you are already a trained clinician.


The course is given by Dr. Richard Sherman, Ph.D.  He is certified by BCIA, approved by BCIA to teach the general biofeedback certification course, and currently teaches A&P, Pelvic floor disorders, pain, and other courses. He is a professional psychophysiologist with extensive training (his Ph.D. is in biology & psychology), has nearly 30 years of experience in the field, and has published over 130 books, chapters, and articles (mostly in peer reviewed journals). Dr. Sherman is Director of the psychophysiology doctoral specialization at Saybrook University and has held many positions within the Association for Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback including president. Full CV available upon request and with the course materials.

Required Texts:

Cost of the text is not included in the cost of the course.

Pinel, John P.J., Biopsychology – 9th edition but the 5th through 8th editions are fine.  2005 / 7; Published by Pearson of Boston & New York.ISBN 0-205-42651-4. Needham Heights, MA:  Allyn, & Bacon ,ISBN 0-205-34984-6. 


Topics we will cover:

(Note: Each topic corresponds to one set of review questions.):

  1. Definitions and Concepts – what is this field and how does it relate to the rest of the world? (Lecture 1; Pinel chapter 1)
  2. Credibility of Information – research techniques, recognizing bad science

          (Lectures 2, 2.1, 2.2; Pinel chapters 1 and 5)

  1. Evolution and Behavioral Genetics – evolution of behavior and communication, genetics of behavior (Lecture 2.6; Pinel chapter 2)
  2. Anatomy and Physiology of the Central and Peripheral Nervous Systems – stomach brain, plastic homunculus (Lectures 3, 3.1, 3.2; Pinel chapters 3, 4, 8, 9, and 10)
  3. Hormones and Behavior – pheromones, sex, nerve – hormone interactions

 (Lecture 3.6; Pinel chapter 13)

  1. Mechanisms of Sensation/Perception – vision, hearing, touch (pain, electrical), smell, taste, balance/location, etc. (Lectures 4, 4.1; Pinel chapters 6 & 7)
  2. Motor control systems – (Lecture 4.4; Pinel chapter 8)
  3. Eating and Drinking – balance and disorders (Lecture 4.6; Pinel chapter 12)
  4. Biological Rhythms and Sleep (Lecture 4.8; Pinel chapter 14)
  5. Drug Addiction (Lecture 5; Pinel chapter 15)
  6. Learning, Language, and Memory (Lecture 5.4; Pinel chapters 11 & 16)
  7. The Malfunctioning Brain (Lecture 5.6; Pinel chapters 10 & 18)
  8. Emotions – stress, aggression, mental illness (Lecture 6; Pinel chapters 17 and 18)
  9. Psychophysiological interventions (Lectures 9, 9.2, 9.4)


When all requirements have been successfully completed, your course completion certificate will be e-mailed to you and BCIA will be informed that you completed the course.