79021 - Animal Behavior: Morphological, Physiological and Ethological Aspects and Behavioral Disorders

Course Unit Page

Academic Year 2021/2022

Learning outcomes

The student will be able to:

- understand animal behavior and its dysfunction.

- set ethological and behavioral investigations aimed at the recognition of animal welfare and of situations etopatiche as well as manage the decisive action of the problem

Course contents

Introduction, anatomical features of the Nervous System, neuron and neuroglia, synapses, neurotransmitters, neuroactive peptides, neurotransmitter receptors, synaptic plasticity, synaptic integration, regulation of synaptic connections, regulatort systems, brain stem and behaviour, brain stem and consciousness, arousal and homeostasis, sleep, emotional behaviour, motivational states, reward, learning and memory.

Etology concepts: descriptive etology, experimental etology, etologic areas, targets and methods in etology.

Motivations: features of the finalistic behaviour, motivation models, evaluation of the intensity of the motivation, motivation analyses, motivation systems, physiologic bases of motivations, hormones and motivation, impulses.

Stimuli: causing mechanisms, key-stimuli, arousing signals, interspecific arousing signals, hypernormal arousing signals, addition of stimuli, filtration, fluctuations of the reaction threshold, specific weariness. Behaviour: development of behaviour, maturation of behavioural patterns, instinct, learning and memory, temporal and hyerarchic organisation of behaviour, cohordination of bahvioural patterns, spontaneous components in behaviour, conflictual behaviour, schemes of hierarchy of instincts, appetitive behaviour and consuming action, quiescence phase, domestication, features caused by domestication, causes of phenomena connected with domestication.

Physiology of behaviour: nervous system and behaviour, hormonal effects on behaviour. Learning: classification of learning, biological meaning of the acquired information, learning phases, learning processes.

Communication systems in domestic animals. Insights on the physiologic mechanisms of regulation of alimentary, water, sexual, maternal and social behaviour, aggressiveness and calm.

Welfare: definitions, evalutation of welfare, welfare indicators. Environmental and social needs related to welfare in small and large animals. Methods of etologic and behavioural investigations to detect etopathic situations.

Education and training: correct approach to the animal; techniques of behavior modification: reinforcement, differential reinforcement, punishment, operating and responsive extinction, systemic desensitization, appetitive and averse opposite-conditioning, failing conditioning, flooding, control of behavior, observational learning, modeling, relaxation techniques, social interaction, deference protocol, puppy party, puppy class and kitten party.

Environmental management

General and comparative animal psychology: habituation ; sensitization; inhibition; exploitation; phobic state (simple and complex); anxious state: paroxysmal, intermittent and permanent anxiety; ritualized behaviors; replacement activities, stereotypies, depressive state (acute and chronic); dysthymic state: unipolar and bipolar dysthymia.

Aggressiveness: definition and significance;classification of aggression: maternal, play aggression, fear aggression, irritation aggression, protective-territorial aggression, intra-specific aggression, dominance aggression, possessive and redirected, predatory and idiopathic aggression.

Replacement activities: replacement activities, obsessive-compulsive disorders, differences between replacement activities and stereotypies, the role of neurotransmitters in the pathogenesis of replacement activities, behavioral conditions that may include stereotyped behaviors but don't represent OCD (boredom, attention requests, anxiety), OCD a derivation of anxiety disorders, stereotypies in large and small animals, specific conditions that may be part of OCD diagnosis (feeding disorders, ingesting, sucking and chewing textiles, pica, coprophagy, feline hyperesthesia, excessive body care and self-mutilation, masturbation, acral licking dermatitis), OCD and iheritance.

Ethological and behavioral researching methods aimed at reliefing behavior pathologies conditions in young, adult and elderly animals: separation anxiety; replacement activities; stereotypies, phobias, depression, Hs-Ha, inappropriate urination or defecation, feline hyperesthesia.

Animal welfare: definitions, welfare assessment, welfare indicators. Environmental and social needs related to companion and livestock animals well being; adaptation and stress principles.

The drugs used in behavioral therapy


E.R. Kandel, J.H. Schwartz, T. M. Jessell, PRINCIPI DI NEUROSCIENZE (a cura di V. Perri e G. Spidalieri). Casa Editrice Ambrosiana, Milano.

L.R. Squire, F.E. Bloom, S.K. McConnell, J.L. Roberts, N.C. Spitzer, M.J. Zigmond, FUNDAMENTAL NEUROSCIENCE, second edition, Academic Press, San Diego, California, USA.


Julie K. Shaw, Debbie Martin - Educazione e comportamento del cane e del gatto. Manuale teorico-pratico - Casa editrice Ambrosiana

P Pageat - PATOLOGIA COMPORTAMENTALE DEL CANE - Point Veterinaire Italie

KL Overall - LA CLINICA COMPORTAMENTALE DEL CANE E DEL GATTO  Ed . italiana a cura di Maria Cristina Osella C.G . Edizioni Medico Scientifiche

DF Horwitz , DS. Mills , S Heath - TERAPIA COMPORTAMENTALE DEL CANE E DEL GATTO  - Edizione italiana a cura di AISEAB (Associazione Italiana Specialisti in Etologia Applicata e Benessere Animale ) UTET , Torino


Dodman N. H., Shuster L  - FARMACOLOGIA COMPORTAMENTALE VETERINARIA Edizione italiana a cura di E Monti e PV. Molinario Coedizione Masson /Edizioni Veterinarie

Crowell Davis Sharon, Murray Thomas - PSICOFARMACOLOGIA VETERINARIA, Edizione italiana a cura di C. Beretta e M. Cavalli. Editore EMSI

Teaching methods

Theoretical lectures, laboratory practicals, seminars, practical activities

Assessment methods

The learning's assessment is through a final exam which ensures the achievement of the educational objectives and the acquisition of knowledge occurred in the program of the course.

The final grade is originated by the student's demonstration to have acquired the knowledges and skills required and the ability to link between the various themes as well as the possession of a mastery of expression and a specific language of the subjects.

The obtained valuation has no time limits of validity.

The verbalization can occur in absence of the student.

The examination, in addition to the dates published on AlmaEsami (https://almaesami.unibo.it/almaesami/welcome.htm) can be supported at any time by appointment with the teachers.

Teaching tools

Projector, PC, laboratory, microscope

Office hours

See the website of Pier Attilio Accorsi

See the website of Cristiano Bombardi

See the website of Federico Fracassi

See the website of Anna Zaghini