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Animal models have been widely used for studying the physiology and pharmacology of psychiatric and neurological diseases. The concepts of face, construct, and predictive validity are used as indicators to estimate the extent to which the animal model mimics the disease. Currently, we used these three concepts to design a theoretical assignment to integrate the teaching of neurophysiology, neuropharmacology, and experimental design. For this purpose, seven case studies were developed in which animal models for several psychiatric and neurological diseases were descibed and in which neuroactive drugs used to treat or study these diseases were introduced. Groups of undergraduate students were assigned to one of these case studies and asked to give a classroom presentation in which 1) the disease and underlying pathophysiology are described, 2) face and construct validity of the animal model are discussed, and 3) a pharmacological experiment with the associated neuroactive drug to assess predictive validity is presented. After evaluation of the presentations, we found that the students had gained considerable insight into disease phenomenology, its underlying neurophysiology, and the mechanism of action of the neuroactive drug. Moreover, the assignment was very useful in the teaching of experimental design, allowing an indepth discussion of experimental control groups and the prediction of outcomes in these groups if the animal model were to display predictive validity. Finally, the highly positive responses in the student evaluation forms indicated that the assignment was of great interest to the students. Hence, the currently developed case studies constitute a very useful tool for teaching neurophysiology, neuropharmacology, and experimental design.
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