Arbanasic H. Biopac and Self-experimentation – Improving the Teaching of Physiology. Poster session presented at: Alternatives in the Mainstream: Innovations in Life Science Education and Training. 2nd InterNICHE Conference; 2005 May 12-15; Oslo, Norway


In the Department of Animal Physiology we used to perform laboratory exercises exclusively on animals (mice, rats, frogs). This method of teaching had numerous faults: students often complained or refused to work on animals; the teaching was less effective because the majority of students were negatively affected and distracted by the suffering of the animal; and many teaching assistants felt uncomfortable working with animals. As teachers we wanted to take part in the world trend towards reduction of animals used in research and education, especially because many of our students are future biology teachers who will transmit their attitudes to children.

In 2002 we applied for the InterNICHE Humane Education Award, with success, receiving the Biopac apparatus. This is a system which enables the recording of physiological data from students (self-experimentation) and it is made exclusively for teaching purposes. The application of the Biopac significantly improved our teaching: students are more interested and involved in the teaching process because they measure their own parameters; teachers have more space to be creative and to use data in the best way (comparisions, conclusions, assumptions); the atmosphere in the class is more pleasant; and we made manifold reduction of animals in education, saving a great deal of money. By using alternatives such as the Biopac people have become aware that such models are acceptable and instructive, and that animal models are neither necessary nor irreplaceable.

Due to the fact that we received the Biopac, the Faculty agreed to match the investment and provide us with 5 new computers, enabling us to use computer simulations and thus further modernise our class. Moreover, we are now able to offer our students a new practical neurophysiology class which was formerly performed in student seminars; and while haematology formerly involved much animal use, the Biopac gives the opportunity to perform exercises on integrative organ systems which replaces the animals and improves our curriculum. Finally, in the annual evaluations we have received positive feedback regarding the Biopac from our students.