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Biopsychology

What is biopsychology? Let's look at a biopsychology example before diving into a biopsychology definition.

Suppose you see your friends let's call them Sam and Kay walking around with huge grins on their faces while crossing the schoolyard. Later you observe them getting quiet, moon-eyed and sweaty when the other one is near. You're starting to suspect that something is going on between them. At lunch, you observe the two sitting close to each other and casually touching each others' arms and legs.

With all the behavioural and biological evidence mounting, it doesn't take a psychologist to suspect that these two are ‘in love’.

Biopsychology Chestnut-tailed Starling birds in love StudySmarter Chestnut-tailed Starling birds in 'love', Touhid biplob, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.

But what does this abstract concept of being in love’ entail? How do we know this is what's happening to Sam and Kay? Can we find biological explanations for this behaviour? Everyone is, to some extent, a psychologist; we all analyse the world around us and try to explain behaviour by interpreting the actions of others as clues.

Being in love can be broken down into different aspects of behaviour, including sexual attraction, arousal, and bonding behaviours. These aspects of love are broken down again to look at the biological structures contributing to behaviour typical for lovers.

And that's where Biopsychology comes in. One of the most effective ways that science has been able to gather objective proof of abstract concepts like love, altruism and aggression that impact our lives is through Biopsychology.

What is the definition of biopsychology?

Biopsychology is a subdivision of psychology that looks at the biological basis of thinking, behaviour and emotion. The most important biological structures are the brain and the nervous system.

Biopsychology includes many specialist areas such as:

  • Clinical neuroscience: the study of how different illnesses affect the nervous system and how they can be treated.
  • Behavioural endocrinology: the study of how hormones affect behaviour.
  • Psychoneuroimmunology: the study of how the immune system and behaviour interact.

The common thread for these different specializations in Biopsychology is they all analyze behaviour and thinking through the lens of the biopsychological approach and its core assumptions.

What is an example of biopsychology?

If a biopsychologist would look at behaviour such as what Sam and Kay are showing, they could use an array of methods to analyse what's happening to them on a biological level.

Biopsychology Couple in love StudySmarterCouple in love, flaticon.com

Some examples of biological methods that could be used are:

  • Measurement of physical indicators: You could measure Sam's pupil dilation, sweating of the hands, and heart rate when they look at Kay.
  • Analysis of blood and tissue: You could analyse brain chemicals in blood or saliva before and after Sam and Kay see each other to see if being in love creates changes in brain chemicals.
  • Behavioural observations: You can count the number of times Sam and Kay touch or how many centimetres apart they sit compared to people who are just friends.
  • Neural imaging: You can use brain scans to record where in the brain blood flow increases when Kay is shown a photograph of their loved one versus a photograph of a stranger.
  • Twin and family studies: You can collect genealogical information to find out if their sexuality is determined by family genetics.
  • Post-mortems: If they live a long and happy life together, scientists can look at Sam and Kay's brains after they've passed away versus the brains of those who lived alone to see if there have been any structural changes.

In the following section, we'll have a closer look at the most important structures that determine behaviour, as well as more of the methods used to investigate them.

What are the biological structures that determine behaviour in biopsychology?

Biopsychology emphasizes the study of the nervous system and brain as these are the biological structures that most influence behaviour (as opposed to the liver or stomach). To figure out how physiology works to produce an emotion like love, you can look at several different levels. The lowest level is the most general, but the higher the level, the smaller the structures analyzed. In the following, we'll review what research has already determined to be the topmost influential biological structures determining behaviour in living beings.

Level of Analysis

Biopsychology Level of Analysis

Common Methods of Analysis

Social level

Level 1 behaviour-social interactions

Observations, Twin Studies, Measurement of Physical Indicators

Systems level

Level 2 Central Nervous System, Endocrine System, Immune System

Autopsies

Organ levelLevel 3 brainMRI, EEG

Local level

Level 4 Localization of Brain Functions, Motor Centers

PET, fMRI

Cellular level

Level 5 Neurones, Glial Cells, Immune Cells, Synapses

Microscopy, Stain, Voltmetres

Molecular level

Level 6 neurotransmitters, hormones, receptors

Microscopy

Let's start with the first level in which we can examine biological structures; the social level.

Level 1 (Social Level): Behaviour and social interactions

On the social level, biopsychologists overlap with social psychology to concentrate on observing the interactions of individuals within their environment. This is important in clinical psychology where observation is used to diagnose individuals with illnesses or to determine whether treatment is working. Another important application of gathering behavioural information is to be able to see the behavioural effects of neurochemicals.

It's been shown that young male monkeys display slightly more aggressive social behaviour than other males when their levels of testosterone are high. When trying to find out how testosterone affects behaviour, it's important to collect data about social interactions to better understand the connection between aggression and testosterone.

Research has shown that people who are "in love" have more of the neurochemical oxytocin. In one trial that investigated how this hormone contributes to monogamous behaviour in people. Researchers found that test subjects ignored other potential partners more when injected with oxytocin compared to a control group.

If we move up a level, we start looking at the individual. In individuals, the biological system that controls behaviour is the nervous system.

Level 2 (Systems level): Nervous system, endocrine system and immune system

Three main systems influence behaviour.

  1. The nervous system
  2. The endocrine system
  3. The immune system

Although the immune system is important, A-Level Psychology focuses on the nervous system and endocrine system.

What is the nervous system?

The nervous system is a network of nerves and control centers that run through your entire body in parallel to your other body systems, such as the cardiovascular or respiratory system. Its main function is to pass on information via its specialized cells, the neurons, which when grouped are called a nerve. Nerves connect all the parts of the body the way that roads connect villages and cities. The nervous system has functional subdivisions.

Biopsychology The nervous system StudySmarterThe nervous system, Eucalyp, flaticon.com

What are the subdivisions of the nervous system?

The nervous system is divided into the peripheral nervous system and the central nervous system.

  • The central nervous system includes the brain and spinal cord. It's here that all information is filtered, integrated with memories, and all conscious and unconscious movement is controlled. This control system is separated from the rest of the body by the blood-brain barrier, which keeps toxins from getting into the central nervous system from the blood.

  • The peripheral nervous system connects the central nervous system to the senses and the muscles, enabling the body to perceive the outside world as well as react to it. If the central nervous system is like a motorway into and out of the brain, the peripheral nervous system would be similar to the rural roads. The peripheral nervous system again is subdivided into the somatic (voluntary) nervous system and the autonomic (involuntary) nervous system.

    The autonomic nervous system has two distinct patterns that can be activated: the parasympathetic nervous system, responsible for the rest-and-digest response and the sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for the fight-or-flight reaction.

It's been found that “being in love” creates a similar pattern of biological symptoms to when the sympathetic nervous system is activated by other emotions such as fear. Sweating, racing heartbeat and pupil dilation all are indicators of arousal that are linked to the sympathetic nervous system.

What is the endocrine system?

The endocrine system is a bodily system made of glands and specialized cells that produce hormones.

Glands are specialized organs that secrete substances in the body and endocrine glands specialise in hormone production.

Tear ducts are exocrine glands, meaning they produce non-hormone substances and the adrenal glands are an example of an endocrine gland because they produce hormones.

Hormones are molecular messengers that have profound long-lasting effects on biological processes and the development of the organism. They influence sleep, growth, development of sexual attributes, genetic expression, and they also interact to create biological rhythms.

If we move up another level to looking at the individual organs, we could look at the most important organ of the central nervous system the brain.

Level 3 (Organ level): The Brain

The brain is the control center of the entire organism. It's made up of a thick network of neurons and glial cells suspended in a liquid called the interstitium. Information is stored in the brain as memories and these are used to make decisions. If the body is a country, the brain would be the capital city where the government decides what happens in the rest of the country.

Biopsychology Brain hemispheres StudySmarterBrain hemispheres, flaticon.com

The brain has two halves or hemispheres. Certain functions such as speech are processed on specific sides of the brain. The way that researchers found out about the different functions of the sides of the brain or hemispheric lateralization was by looking at split-brain patients these are people who had a surgical procedure that severed the connection of the two halves of the brain (used to treat extreme cases of epilepsy). Depending on which side of their visual field they were shown an object, these patients could either name an object or reach for it, but not both.

In the past, researchers thought that once brain cells died, they were lost forever. But in recent years it's been found that the brain has remarkable healing properties. The brain cells' ability to adapt and still keep working after damage or brain cell loss is called neural plasticity and it's good news for anyone who's ever had to sit through an episode of Love Island.

In the next level, you can analyze brain functions by looking at the individual parts of the brain.

Level 4 (Local Level): Parts and Localised Functions of the Brain

Biopsychology Cerebral lobes of the brain StudySmarterCerebral lobes of the brain, Camazine, Wikimedia Commons

What are the functions and structures of the brain?

Advances in brain (neural) imaging have shown that different parts of the brain have different functions. There are different areas in the brain in charge of various functions such as motor function, sensory perception and speech. These are located in four major subdivisions of the brain, called lobes:

  • Frontal praise: This part of the brain is responsible for planning, conscious decisions and voluntary movement.
  • Parietal praise: This part of the brain is responsible for integrating sensory information and memory.
  • Temporal lobe: This part of the brain is responsible for processing sound, speech and language.
  • Occipital lobe: This part of the brain is connected to the processing of vision.

Researchers have been able to pinpoint unilateral areas of the brain responsible for very specific aspects of functions, too. Take speech, for example, Wernicke's area which was found to be responsible for processing meaningful speech, and Broca's area was found to be responsible for making plans and generating speech sounds.

What methods are used to analyse the brain?

A variety of methods can be used to analyze physiology, and many of them concentrate on the brain. Depending on what you're trying to find out, they have different advantages.

  • Neural imaging: Among the most common methods of getting brain scans are Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) which measures the magnetic current of specific atoms in response to radio waves, functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) and Positron Emissions Tomography (PET) which measure the blood flow to parts of the brain. These methods best show spatial localization of brain functions - meaning you can see where in the brain structural and functional changes are occurring. However, because it takes a few seconds to scan the entire brain, these methods are not good at showing at what exact time something is happening.

Biopsychology fMRI image brain scan StudySmarterfMRI output image, Miller et al., Wikimedia Commons

  • Electroencephalogram (EEG): Measures electrical currents on the surface of the head to reflect real-time changes in the brain. EEG can measure general changes in consciousness in the brain such as when we sleep or meditate or detect epilepsy, which is called a spontaneous EEG, but it can also measure small brain waves called Event-related potentials (or ERP) that are created by the reaction to specific stimuli, such as when a person hears a tone.

    The downside of EEG is that we don't know where exactly the electrical currents measured stem from under the surface of the skull.

  • Post-mortem examinations: The most direct method to find out brain structures is the autopsy. Post-mortems on humans have led through many breakthroughs, such as the first maps of brain localisation created by Brodmann which is still in use today. Brodmann mapped different areas of the brain by how thick the outer tissue was in which area. If we were to look at a brain using modern microscopes or stain techniques, we could analyse the brain tissue on a cellular level, which is the next level up.

Level 5 (Cellular Level): Neurones and Synapses

If you look at brain tissue with a microscope you'd see it's mostly made up of neurons and glial cells. Glial cells provide the structure of the network of the central nervous system and provide neurons with nutrients. Neurons are cells specialised in transmitting and receiving information. Accordingly, they have parts that other cells don't have: dendrites and an axon.

There are many variations of neurons, which can either be categorised according to how many dendrites or axons they have (the structural classification of neurons) or according to what function they have in the body (the functional classification of neurons).

On the cellular level, you can also look at where two neurons connect. This is called a synapse. A synapse includes the output from the cell transmitting the electrochemical impulse as well as the location on the cell receiving the electrochemical impulse. The neuron sending the impulse is called the presynaptic neuron and the cell receiving is called the postsynaptic cell. Between the two cells, there's a little space called the synaptic cleft that's filled with interstitium.

Biopsychology Neuron StudySmarterNeurons, flaticon.com

To transmit electrical impulses or action potentials to the next cell, neurochemicals are released into the synaptic cleft. Depending on the neurochemical released, the way the chemicals interact with the postsynaptic cell membrane can either make it more likely for the postsynaptic neurone to fire (this is called excitatory ) or less likely for the next neurone to fire (this is called inhibitory).

The next level up focuses on the specific neurochemicals and their functions.

Level 6 (Molecular-level): Neurochemicals

When information is passed on through neurons via chemicals, these are called neurochemicals. Analysing these chemicals on a molecular level helps develop medicines and better understand behaviour. The way that different neurochemicals interact can create biological rhythms or cycles in the organisms that influence behaviour.

What are neurochemicals?

Neurochemicals include:

NeurochemicalEffect of Neurochemical
AdrenalineFight or flight neurotransmitters
NoradrenalineConcentration neurotransmitter
DopaminePleasure neurotransmitter
SerotoninMood neurotransmitter
GABACalming neurotransmitter
AcetylcholineLearning neurotransmitters
GlutamatesMemory neurotransmitter
EndorphinsEuphoria neurotransmitter
  • Neurotransmitters: These are the short-distance molecular messengers produced in the neurons of the nervous system. Dopamine, serotonin, and GABA are some examples of neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters have to bind to gates in the cell membrane called receptors to create a reaction in the cell. You can think of neurotransmitters like specific keys that only open one type of lock.

  • Hormones: These are the long-distance molecular messengers that enter the bloodstream and are produced in endocrine cells or glands. Cortisol and testosterone are some examples of hormones. Some hormones act on receptors as the neurotransmitters do, but others can directly enter all the cells of the body, meaning they have all-access passes.

  • Immune system messengers: These are messenger molecules such as antibodies and cytokines which are produced by immune system cells. They can also enter the bloodstream, but they are responsible only for specific immune system responses.

In one fMRI study, people were shown pictures of their loved ones as well as of strangers. Pictures of their loved ones caused the parts of the brain that are associated with the neurotransmitter dopamine to become more active. Dopamine is a feel-good neurotransmitter. This means there's a possible biological explanation for why a person would feel good when seeing someone they love.

What are biological rhythms?

We've been looking at the different structures of the body in increasing detail. But you could also analyse biological rhythms, meaning biological changes over time that involve interactions between genetic, neurochemical, and environmental factors.

Biological rhythms can have different lengths such as:

  • The ultradian rhythm (shorter than 24 hours): An example of ultradian rhythms are the 90-minute sleep phases that humans repeat while sleeping, blinking or your pulse.

  • The circadian rhythm (24 hours): An example of circadian rhythm is the human sleep-wake cycle.

  • Infradian rhythm (more than 24 hours): An example of an infradian rhythm is a woman's menstrual cycle which usually lasts 28 days or seasonal fluctuations such as hibernation in animals.

In one study of a woman's cycle researchers found out that heterosexual women found photos of men with stereotypical facial features (square jawlines and facial hair) more attractive when ovulating than when menstruating. This suggests that biological rhythms also contribute to what we might think of as being in love.

Biopsychology - Key takeaways

  • Biopsychology is a subdivision of psychology that focuses on how biological structures and functions influence behaviour, thinking, and emotions.
  • There are many methods to investigate the biology involved in behaviour. These include measuring physical indicators like sweating or pupil dilation, analysis of tissue and blood, behavioural observations, neural imaging, twin studies, and post mortems.
  • The two main biological structures that determine behaviour are the nervous system and the brain. The nervous system is subdivided into the peripheral and central nervous systems.
  • Social behaviour is part of Biopsychology because it's important for determining the effects of the smaller biological structures on behaviour.
  • The brain is part of the central nervous system and controls all bodily functions. The brain has four main functional areas; the frontal lobe (planning and emotion), parietal lobe (sensory integration), temporal lobe (speech and sound) and occipital lobe (vision).
  • The methods used to investigate the brain differ in that they either focus on determining the location or timing of activity.
  • The two main cells that can be found in the nervous system are neurons and glial cells. Neurons pass on information in the body via electric impulses called the action potential. The place where a neuron and another cell meet and chemical information is passed on is called the synapse.
  • Information is passed in the synapse via neurochemicals. Neurotransmitters, hormones and immune system molecules are all types of neurochemicals.
  • Biological rhythms reflect how different neurochemicals and environmental factors interact to create cycles. Biological rhythms include (<24 hrs), circadian (24 hrs), and infradian (<24 hrs).

Frequently Asked Questions about Biopsychology

Many research methods characterise the biopsychological approach, but they fall into two categories: ones that make the biological structures visible such as neural imaging or microscopy, or statistical ones such as twin and family studies to determine genetic similarities.

Biopsychology has significantly advanced the treatment of illnesses (both mental and physical) and the understanding of how genes determine behaviour.

The biopsychological perspective explains the working of the mind through biological structures and functions.

The biopsychological approach assumes that natural selection and neurochemicals determine behaviour, and that brain function is localised.

If a biopsychologist would look at behaviour, they could use an array of methods to analyse what's happening to them on a biological level. Some examples of biological methods that could be used are:


  • Measurement of physical indicators.
  • Analysis of blood and tissue.
  • Behavioural observations.
  • Neural imaging.
  • Twin and family studies.
  • Post-mortems.

Final Biopsychology Quiz

Question

 What are diurnal rhythms?

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Answer

Diurnal rhythms refer to a rhythmic synchronisation within the day and night cycle.

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How long do infradian rhythms last?

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Answer

Over 24 hours.


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Question

How long do ultradian rhythms take?



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Answer

 Ultradian rhythms are cycles shorter than 24 hours.

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Question

What are biological rhythms?



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Answer

Biological rhythms are natural biological events in living organisms 

that follow repetitive patterns determined by environmental changes.


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Question

What are the suprachiasmatic nuclei 

(SCN) responsible for?



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Answer

The SCN is connected to the pineal gland, 

and both are responsible for maintaining the 

circadian sleep-wake cycle process.

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Question

What are exogenous zeitgebers responsible for?  



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Answer

The exogenous zeitgebers are responsible for 

resetting the biological clock of an organism. 


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Question

What are the two biological functions 

that follow the circadian cycle?

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Answer

The two main human biological rhythms 

that follow the circadian cycle are our 

sleep-wake cycle and body temperature. 

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What is the function of the “biological clock”?

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The biological clock is responsible for managing 

the synchronicity within the environmental stimulus.

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What affects exogenous zeitgebers?

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The external body clocks, or exogenous zeitgebers, 

are affected by environmental changes.

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How many hemispheres are in the brain?

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Two, the right and left hemispheres.

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What are the functions of the frontal lobe?

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Voluntary movement, expressive language, and higher cognitive functions.

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What is an important area in the frontal lobe?

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Broca’s area, involved in speech production.

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What is an important area in the parietal lobe?

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Answer

The primary somatosensory cortex.

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What are the functions of the occipital lobe?

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Answer

Vision and mapping (placing objects). It is the visual processing centre.

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What is an important area in the occipital lobe?

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Brodmann’s Area 17, the primary visual cortex

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What are the functions of the temporal lobe?

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Hearing, memory acquisition and categorising objects.

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What is an important area in the temporal lobe?

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Wernicke’s area, this area deals with speech comprehension

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What are the functions of the cerebellum?

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Coordination of voluntary movements, balance and equilibrium.

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What are the functions of the brain stem?

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Reflexes (such as breathing, swallowing, and heart rate)

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Question

What does Biopsychology focus on?


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Answer

Biopsychology focuses on how biological structures and functions influence behaviour, thinking and emotions.


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Question

Which biopsychological methods can be used to investigate behaviour?

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Biopsychological methods used to investigate behaviour include measuring physical indicators like sweating or pupil dilation, analysis of tissue and blood, behavioural observations, neural imaging, twin studies and post mortems.

Show question

Question

What are the top two biological structures that determine behaviour?


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Answer

The two main biological structures that determine behaviour are the nervous system and the brain.

Show question

Question

What are the two subdivisions of the nervous system?


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The nervous system is subdivided into the peripheral and central nervous system. 


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What does observing social behavior contribute to in Biopsychology?


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 Observing social behavior is important for determining the effects of the smaller biological structures on behavior.

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What is the main function of the brain and which subdivision of the nervous system is it part of?


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The brain is part of the central nervous system and controls all bodily functions.

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What are the four main functional areas and their functions?


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The brain has four main functional areas; the frontal lobe (planning and emotion), parietal lobe (sensory integration), temporal lobe (speech and sound) and occipital lobe (vision). 


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What are the two categories that methods of investigating the living brain fall into?


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Answer

The methods used to investigate the brain differ in that they either focus on determining the location or timing of activity.


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Question

Which two main types of cells can be found in the nervous system?


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The two main cells that can be found in the nervous system are neurones and glial cells.

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How do neurones pass on information in the body?


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Neurones pass on information in the body via electric impulses called an action potential.


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What is the area called where a neurone and another cell meet?


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The place where a neurone and another cell meet is called the synapse.

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What are the molecules called that pass on information in the synapse?


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Information is passed in the synapse via neurochemicals.

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What are the three major types of neurochemicals?


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Answer

Neurotransmitters, hormones and immune system molecules are all types of neurochemicals. 


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What interacts to create a biological rhythm cycle?


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Biological rhythms reflect how different neurochemicals and environmental factors interact to create cycles.

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What are three major types of biological rhythms and their durations?

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Biological rhythms include (<24 hrs) circadian (24 hrs) and infradian (<24 hrs).

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What is plasticity in the brain?

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Plasticity is the brain’s ability to change and adapt to the environment, both in function and structure.

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What is synaptic pruning? 


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Synaptic pruning is when neuronal pathways are weakened or removed altogether due to lack of use/repetition. 


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What does synaptic pruning achieve? 


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Answer

It improves the brains communication efficiency, as it removes unnecessary or weakened pathways, but the ones remaining are stronger. 


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What is axonal sprouting? 


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This is when new connections form, with neuronal cell bodies forming additional branches and axons. 


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Question

What did Kolb and Robinson (2004) find in their study?

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Answer

They found that addictive substances such as nicotine and morphine cause changes in the structure of dendrites and dendritic spines in brain regions, such as the nucleus accumbens and the prefrontal cortex. 


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What is neural regeneration?

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This is when new neurones and connections generate after an area of the brain is damaged. 


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What are the two types of trauma that can occur to the brain? 

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Direct and indirect. 


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What is denervation supersensitivity?

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When there is a loss of axons in a pathway, possibly from a result of direct or indirect trauma, the remaining axons become more sensitive as a result.

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What did Cannon and Rosenblueth (1949) find in their study? What term did they create? 


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They created the term ‘law of denervation.’ In their study, they found that surgical denervation causes supersensitivity in neurones. The closer the neurones are to the damaged areas/cut neurones, the greater the supersensitivity. This decreases the chain of neurones.

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Question

What is functional reorganisation?

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Where injury has occurred, healthy portions of the brain undergo functional reorganisation to regain the ability to do the function that has been lost. Functions lost are ‘picked up’ by unassociated areas of the brain, to regain function. 


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What is neuronal unmasking? 


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This is where areas close to the damaged portions of the brain that have dormant synapses (synapses that haven’t received enough input to be active), open connections to compensate for the damaged areas. 


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What are the three factors affecting functional recovery? 


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Age, gender, and rehabilitative therapy.

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Question

What did Maquire et al. (2000) find in their study?

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Answer

When comparing taxi drivers who had undergone ‘The Knowledge’ test in London to a control group, taxi drivers had significantly larger posterior hippocampus’s, positively correlated with their time spent as taxi drivers. This suggests the physical structure of the brain can change depending on the environment and the experiences of the individual.

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What did Danelli et al. (2013) find in their study? 


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When EB (a 14-year-old) had a tumour removed as an infant, through a left hemispherectomy (removing Broca’s and Wernicke’s areas, language centres of the brain), the child developed normally despite this significant trauma to the brain, with only a few language issues (dyslexia). The right hemisphere adapted to compensate for the missing brain functions. 

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Question

What is the case of Phineas P. Gage?

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Answer

A man working on a railway in 1848 received significant brain injury when an iron bar went through his left frontal lobe. He deteriorated before making an almost complete recovery 24 days later, with only a few issues with memory loss and temper control as a result. He lived for 12 more years.


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Question

What does EEG stand for?

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Answer

Electroencephalogram.

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Question

How many electrodes are usually used in an EEG or ERP?

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Answer

Around 25, up to 34. This number can increase for more profound readings. 

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How are EEG and ERP results recorded?

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Answer

They are recorded using a graph to show brain waves.

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Question

What are the different names for the brain waves recorded on the graph? 


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Answer

Alpha, beta, theta, delta.

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Question

Define frequency in the context of brain waves.

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Answer

The speed and quantity of the waves.

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Define amplitude in the context of brain waves.

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Answer

The intensity and size of the waves.

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Question

What are synchronised waveforms, and what do they mean?

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Answer

They are waves usually found when the person is asleep or focusing on a task and can be categorised as the alpha, beta, delta, and/or theta waves.

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Question

What are desynchronised waveforms?

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Answer

Desynchronized waveforms are more the norm when people are awake, as their brain rapidly switches attention and function. This usually results in a mixture of the above wave types, which is why amplitude and frequency vary so much.

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Question

How do ERPs differ from EEGs?

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Answer

ERPs give the stimulus to the participant multiple times, repeating it to average out the results and reduce ‘noise’.

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Question

What is averaging in ERPs? 


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Answer

Averaging is where the repeated exposure to a stimulus is measured and graphed over time to provide an average result, eliminating confounding variables.

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What is latency? 


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Answer

Latency is the time elapsing between showing the stimulus to the participant and their response to it.

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Question

What happens in the first 100ms after exposure to a stimulus?

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Answer

EEGs usually have a short latency in the first 100ms, referred to as sensory ERPs because the senses respond reflexively to the stimulus. After 100ms comes the actual response to the stimulus, where the information has been processed cognitively.

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Question

Name one strength of the EEG and ERP methods. 

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Answer

Any of the following: useful for clinical diagnosis, inexpensive, high temporal resolution, non-invasive.

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Name one weakness of the EEG and ERP methods.

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Answer

Any of the following: uncomfortable, not exact (superficial), low spatial resolution.

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Why is the ERP more robust than the EEG method?

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ERPs use averaging to filter out unrelated electrical activity, so they can more confidently say that electrical activity directly results from the stimulus. EEGs do not use this.

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What does fMRI stand for?

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Functional magnetic resonance imaging.

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What is an fMRI?

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It is a machine for scanning the brain using a magnetic field. It detects blood flow changes occurring due to increased activity within the brain.

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What is hyperactivation?

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It refers to higher levels of activation.

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What carries oxygen to neurones in the brain?

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Haemoglobin.

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What does BOLD stand for?

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Blood oxygenation level-dependent.

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What is a voxel?

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It is a unit of measurement that builds up the 3D image in an fMRI. It represents a small portion of brain tissue.

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Question

Why must a patient be still during fMRI? 


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To avoid other areas of the brain activating, confounding the results, and to allow for a detailed image to be created. The movement would disrupt this.

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Question

Name one strength of using an fMRI.

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Answer

Any of the following: 

  • It is non-invasive. 
  • It has a high spatial resolution. 
  • It is accurate in building a map of the brain. 
  • It is good at assigning functions to an area of the brain.

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Question

Which of the following is correct?

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Answer

Blood flow is difficult to interpret in an fMRI.

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Name one weakness of using an fMRI.

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Answer

Any of the following: 

  • It is expensive. 
  • It has a low temporal resolution. 
  • The patient has to be still.

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Question

What is a post mortem examination in psychology?

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Answer

It is the examination of the brain after death.

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Who typically carries out a post mortem?

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A pathologist.

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Why would a coroner request a post mortem?

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If the death was unusual or suspicious, a coroner may request a post mortem.

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What two areas of the brain were given functional associations after a post mortem? 


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Broca’s and Wernicke’s areas.

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What chemical fixative can be given during a post mortem to make the brain firm for examination?

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Formaldehyde.

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What did Mackay et al. find in their study? 


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In post mortem examinations, the brains of patients with schizophrenia had an increased amount of dopamine and more dopamine receptors compared to a neurotypical person.

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What did Annese et al. find in their study?

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The patient HM had lesions in his hippocampus, which would help explain why he was unable to store new memories. 

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Name one strength of post mortem examinations.

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Answer

Any of the following: they give a detailed examination of the brain, they can allow deeper inspections of the brain, they are historically relevant as they’ve provided evidence of functional areas in the past (Broca’s and Wernicke’s). 

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Question

Name one weakness of post mortem examinations. 


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Answer

Any of the following: they are ethically questionable with a lack of informed consent, they are not causal, they do not fully take into account other variables, such as age and medications before death affecting the areas being examined. 

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Why was HM’s case ethically questionable?

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He had amnesia, so was unable to give fully informed consent to the post mortem.

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What was HM unable to do after his surgery?

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Form new long term memories, and he also lost 11 years worth of memories prior to the surgery.

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What did Reynolds find in their post mortem study?

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Antipsychotic drug use increases the number of dopamine receptors, and these are taken by schizophrenic patients, so their increased amount of dopamine receptors may be due to the drugs and not the disorder.

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What was the only word Broca’s patient was able to say?

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Tan.

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Who can request a post mortem to learn more about the death/disease?

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A doctor.

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Question

How do the biological clock fluctuations activate the sleep-wake cycle?



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Answer

The biological clocks are present in every cell, which is synchronised by the (SCN) located in the hypothalamus. During sleep, some genes produce proteins that gradually increase throughout the night, lowering during the day. These fluctuations activate the sleep-wake cycle.

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What is the role of the sleep-wake cycle? 



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Answer

The role of the sleep-wake cycle is to regulate our sleep at night and keep us awake during the day.


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What are the main mechanisms responsible for the sleep cycle?




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Answer

There are internal biological mechanisms responsible for our sleep cycle: circadian rhythm 

and homeostasis.

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What are the other names given to biological rhythms?

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Answer

Biological rhythms, also known as biorhythms, endogenous rhythms, internal rhythms or life rhythms.

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How do biological rhythms affect our physiological body?

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Answer

Our internal biological rhythms affect our physiological body by creating changes.

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What are exogenous zeitgebers?

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Answer

Exogenous zeitgebers are the key factors that manage the biological rhythms.

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Question

What are exogenous zeitgebers?

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Answer

Exogenous zeitgebers are the key factors that manage the biological rhythms.

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Question

What are Endogenous pacemakers?

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Answer

Endogenous pacemakers are internal 

mechanisms that control our biological rhythms.

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Question

Outline an example of endogenous pacemakers.



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Answer

An example of endogenous peacemakers is the circadian sleep-wake cycle.

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Question

What is homeostasis?


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Answer

Homeostasis is the ability to maintain the internal bodily environment 

in constant equilibrium through a series of dynamic interactions 

in physiological and biochemical systems.

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