and the UNeXpLaiNed ©Copyrighted by Dave Ayotte & Caty Bergman

SCI: Biopsychology


TOC (Table Of Contents)



INTRODUCTION: What is Biopsychology?

          01.01 SUMMARY
          01.02 DEFINITIONS

01.01      INTRODUCTION: Summary

By Kendra Cherry, Guide

"Biopsychology is a branch of psychology that analyzes how the brain and neurotransmitters influence our behaviors, thoughts and feelings. This field can be thought of as a combination of basic psychology and neuroscience... "

Biopsychology (which is also known as biological psychology, psychobiology, physiological psychology, or even neuropsychology) has a rich and interesting history.

1879 is the year most scholars agree that psychology became a separate discipline from philosophy. During that year, a laboratory solely devoted to psychological research was established by Wilhelm Wundt (1832-1920) in Leipzig, Germany.

01.02      INTRODUCTION: Definitions

MONISM (Greek monos, means "alone" or "single"):[3] is the belief that the mind and brain are one and the same.

      Idealistic MONOISM: everything is nonphysical.
      Materialistic MONOISM: everything (including the mind) is physical.

DUALISM: Mind and brain are separate, with the mind being nonphysical and brain being physical. Also, it's believed that the mind interacts with the brain, thus influencing behavior.



          02.01 the MIND-BRAIN PROBLEM

          02.02 DESCARTE (1596-1650) 
          02.03 THE ELECTRIC BRAIN (1737-1927)
          02.04 LOCALIZATION (1848-Present)

               02.04a Two Extreme Theories
               02.04b Today


               02.05a Genetics (Nature)
               02.05b Environment (Nurture)

          02.99 Timeline 

02.01      HISTORY: the Mind-Brain Problem

Before biopsychology could be established as a subdiscipline of psychology, psychologist had to first prove that biology does have significant influence over behavior. In order to do this, they had to answer an age-old philosophical question about behavior, what is the mind and how much control does it have over behavior?

"This issue is usually called the mind-body problem, but it is phrased differently here to place the emphasis squarely where it belongs -on the brain.[1]

In short, the "mind-brain" problem[2] (as the book, "Brain And Behavior: An Introduction... ", refers to it) revolves around a basic question about behavior. What controls behavior? Is it the mind, or is it the body (or more specifically the brain) that controls it?

Or more interestingly, are mind and brain the same thing? For example (emphasis ours):

          "At the risk of sounding provocative, I will say
        that there is no such thing as the MIND. It exists
        only in the sense that, say, WEATHER exist; WEATHER
        is a concept we use to include rain, wind, humidity,
        and related phenomena. We talk as if there is a
        WEATHER when we say things like 'The WEATHER is
        interfering with my travel plans.' But we don't
        really think that there is a WEATHER. Most, though
        not all, neuroscientist believe that we should
        think of the MIND in the same way; it is simply
        the collection of things that the brain does, such
        as thinking, sensing, planning, and feeling. But
        when we think, sense, plan and feel, we get the
        compelling impression that there is a MIND behind
        it all, guiding what we do. Most neuroscientist say
        this is just an illusion, that the sense of MIND is
        nothing more than the awareness of what the brain is
        doing. MIND, like WEATHER, is also just a concept,
        it is not a something, it does not do anything.[3]


          "The common sense view of mind and body is that
        they interact. Our perceptions, thoughts, intentions,
        volitions, and anxieties directly affect our bodies
        and our actions. States of the brain and nervous
        system, in turn, generate our states of mind.
        Unfortunately, the common sense notion appears to
        involve a contradiction. The brain and nervous
        systems seem clearly to be part of the physical
        world: tangible, visible, public, extended in space.
        Thoughts, feelings, consciousness, and other states
        of mind strike us as mental: intangible, invisible,
        private, arrayed in time, but not in space. If brain
        and mind are of fundamentally different kinds and
        if, in addition, the laws of causality require
        causes and effects to be of a similar kind, then it
        is clearly impossible for brain to generate mind or

        mind to affect brain. So phrased, this contradiction
        constitutes one half of the mind/body problem
               -- that of the relation of mind to brain... "


Whatever power allows us the ability to write this, and you (in turn) able to understand it; that's what controls both our mind and body. That tiny little thing that allows us to believe and feel we are alive. That tiny little thing is what "really" controls us.

What is that tiny little thing? Now there we can only guess. We are, though, of the same mind that chemicals will probably be found to have more control over our minds than we wish they had.

02.02      HISTORY: Descarte, René (1596-1650)

DESCARTE: The Physical Model of Behavior


"While the great philosophical distinction between mind and body in western thought can be traced to the Greeks, it is to the seminal work of René Descartes (1596-1650), French mathematician, philosopher, and physiologist, that we owe the first systematic account of the mind/body relationship.


"Although extended discussion of the metaphysical split between mind and body did not appear until Descartes' Meditationes, his De homine outlined these views and provided the first articulation of the mind/body interactionism that was to elicit such pronounced reaction from later thinkers. In Descartes' conception, the rational soul, an entity distinct from the body and making contact with the body at the pineal gland, might or might not become aware of the differential outflow of animal spirits brought about through the rearrangement of the interfibrillar spaces. When such awareness did occur, however, the result was conscious sensation - body affecting mind. In turn, in voluntary action, the soul might itself initiate a differential outflow of animal spirits. Mind, in other words, could also affect body... "

The questions surrounding MONISM versus DUALISM did not begin with modern psychology, but rather was being debated in Greece during the Fifth Century BC. Democritus proprosed that everything was made up of atoms (Greek atomos, means "indivisible"),[3] which is what he called the smallest things possible.

Even the soul was made up of atoms.

This arguement was continued into the Fourth Century BC between Plato and Aristotle. Interestingly enough, Plato favored DUALISM, while Aristotle (Plato's student) believed the body and soul were one and the same (MONISM), which helped him to understand, and thus make it easier to explain how humans can reason and feel emotions.

It wasn't easy to argue for either case, because proponents of MONISM had to explain how our physical body was able to connect with our consciousness, while the advocates of DUALISM had to explain how our consciousness was able to connect with our body. In other words, both sides had to explain almost the same thing except in reverse order.

The nervous system hadn't even begun to be vaguely understood until the Ninteenth Century (1800s).

02.03      HISTORY: The Electric Brain (1737-1927)

GALVANI, Luigi (1737-1798)
In the late 1700s, Luigi Galvani showed that he could make a frog's leg twitch by stimulating the attached nerve with electricity, even when the frog muscle was removed from the body.

FRITSCH, Gustav (1837-1927)
HITZIG, Eduard (1839-1907)

A century later, Gustav Fritsch (1837-1927) and Eduard Hitzig were able to do the same thing by stimulating the exposed part of a dog's brain.

These experiments proved that the nervous system operated by electricity and not animal spirits, but it didn't work the same way electricity worked in wires. Wire conducted electricity at the speed of light (186,000 miles per second).

HELMHOLTZ, Hermann von (1821-1894)
Hermann von Helmholtz, a German physicist and physiologist, was able to calculate that nerves conducted electricity at the rate of 90 feet per second. "It was obvious that researchers were dealing with a biologicial phenomenon and that the funcioning of nerves and of the brain was open to scientific study."[4]

From this starting point, Helmholtz's studies of vision hearing were so insightful that, even today we must refer back to his theories before tackling the current ones.

02.04      HISTORY: LOCALIZATION (1848-Present)

Brain Localization
Localization refers to a basic biopsychological principle that specific areas of the brain control specific bodily functions (see fig. 001a). This principle was discussed and debated for centuries until on September 13, 1848 when Phineas Gage, while packing explosives with a tamping iron, accidently set them off. The resulting explosion drove the iron up and through his left cheek, the frontal lobe of his brain, and out the back of his skull, finally landing a few feet away.

Miraculously, he survived, but what happened next changed brain psychology forever and sent research in a whole new direction.

Before his accident, Mr. Gage was an easy-going kind of guy. After the accident, he became surly. The obvious deduction was that the iron bar had somehow put a little zig in his zag. The areas it went through were affected, in our example, his psychology was affected by the bar. This started the notion rolling that maybe specific areas of the brain affect specific bodily functions like vision and hearing and maybe psychology.

Then in 1861, Paul Broca (1825-1880) performed an autopsy on the brain of someone who had lost his ability to speak after suffering a stroke. The autopsy revealed that damage was limited to a specific area on the left side of the brain. This area is now known as Broca's area.

In short, these examples and others started scientist theorizing and researching this new phenomena and the neurological concept of brain localization was born.

          02.04a      LOCALIZATION: Two Extreme Theories

Franz Gall (German Anatomist)
Late 19th Century
Bumps on the outside of the skull determines psychological make-up.

Karl Lashley
The AREA affected is determined by the EXTENT of the damage not the location in the brain it occured.

          02.04b      LOCALIZATION: Today

Today's research seems to be telling us that functions are as much DISTRIBUTED as they are LOCALIZED.

The best way to explain it is just because an area may seem to be in control of a function, that doesn't mean it's doing it all by its lonesome.

That particular area may be the local specialist in speech, but it's also not working in a vacuum. IN SHORT, even specialist need some kind of a support team. In the brain, nearby areas chip in as a part of the whole to help all parts of the brain function properly.

As an extreme example, nearby areas might also be that part of the brain that keeps the heart beating or the lungs breathing (and thus keeps the body as a whole going) depend on the brain to keep things running smoothly; and vice-versa, the brain depends on the rest of the body to do its job also.

"Neuroscientists these days less frequently ask where a function is located than ask how the brain integrates activity from several areas into a single experience or behavior."[5]

02.04      HISTORY: Nature Vs Nurture

How important to behavior is heredity in relation to environmental influences?

Other than the "Mind-Brain" issue, this question is probably the most controversial topic in all of psychology. Are we ruled by chemistry in us or the environment around us or maybe it's a mixture of both chemistry and environment?

Most researchers seem to be thinking it's a mixture of both, but no one is absolutely sure exactly how much of each it is.

As the above history of biopsychology suggest, there seems to be more than a passing element of chance that nature has a huge influence on behavior.

          02.05a      NATURE Vs NURTURE: Genetics (Nature)

The Nature in "Nature versus Nurture" is not only about genetics, but also about the end result of genetics. A good example is the term "hardwired", which refers to the way the brain becomes wired depending (at first) on genetics, but increasingly more and more so (as we age) we influenced by our environment.

But, GENETICS is very important in the "Nature v Nurture" discussion also, because it is the most basic building block of the brain. Genes (or DNA) holds the blueprint for building and maintaining one human brain per one human body for as long as it is able.

"The gene is the biological unit that directs cellular processes and transmits inherited characteristics."[6]

FOR MORE on Genetics (Go Here):

          02.05b      NATURE Vs NURTURE: Environment (Nurture)

FOR MORE on Environmental Psychology (Go Here):

02.99      HISTORY: Timeline

          02.99 1848-SEP-13 [WED] > Phineas Gage incident
          02.99 1861              > Broca's Area discovered
          02.99 1879              > First psychology lab

   1848-SEP-13 [WED]

Cavendish, VT  USA

Page 6-7
Brain And Behavior: An Introduction To Biological Psychology

Phineas Gage injured his frontal lobe when a tamping iron was accidently driven through his skull. This accident changed his personality, which helped validate the biopsychological principle of localization.



Page 7
Brain And Behavior: An Introduction To Biological Psychology

A brain autopsy was performed on someone who had lost their ability to speak after a stroke. The autopsy revealed the area affected by the stroke. This area is now known as the "Broca Area (after Paul Broca the French physician who performed the autopsy)" and that area of the brain was considered one of the most important (if not THE MOST important) area(s) when it comes to our ability to speak.


Leipzig, Germany

Page 3
Brain And Behavior: An Introduction To Biological Psychology

Wilhelm Wundt establishes first laboratory dedicated to the study of psychology.



          03.01 REVIEW

03.01      ADVANCED DEGREE: Review

Genetics is the study of genes. The



          04.01a APR-08-2012

04.01a      NOTES: APR-08-2012

SOURCE: Nova Science Now: How Does the Brain Work?

Motion captures our attention
     One type of brain cell detects motion
     and uses "smooth pursuit" to track an object
     while another type suppresses the rest of the scene
     so we can concentrate on the thing that is in motion
     it's a survival mechanism

WATSON (The computer that played Jeopardy):
"Meet Watson's great-great grandfather... "
     The IBM 701.

"It couldn't play Jeopardy, but it could play... Checkers!

"It was programmed with the basic rules of the game. But more
     importantly, it was programmed to learn from its mistakes. It was
     eventually able to beat the scientist that programmed it. It was
     one of the first times a machine demonstrated artifial

TMS (Introducing the Magnetic Wand):
Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation

Psychiatrist and Neurologist: Mark George
Institute of Psychiatry
Using a map of the area of the brain

Powerful magnetic pulse
equal to the strength of an MRI machine

Electricity and magnetism are basicly the same thing

Neurons fire off electronic impulses to communicate with each other.
A strong enough magnetic impulse will disturb the electronic impulses
     the neurons use to communicate with each other.

TMS (Pain Control):
Pain signalis first felt when pain impulses hit the Sensory Cortex
But researchers suspected an area called the Prefontal Cortex
     (the thinking part of your brain) also plays a key role in your
     perception of pain.

There is strong evidence that TMS can also control emotional pain.
By reseting the (theoretical) out-of-control negative emotions.

Electro-Shock (Convulsive) Therapy (EST, a strong electric shock is applied to the
     frontal lobe of the brain) was one of the first therapies used to
     treat depression and violent behavior.

TMS didn't work at all for at least one-third of the people in a study,
     it helped a little for another third, and took away all the
     symptoms of depression for the last third.

TMS was also used to alter a person's moral perception.
RTPJ = Right Temporo-Parietal Junction
Judges intention



Brain And Behavior: An Introduction To Biological Psychology
         Copyright ©2009

Nova Science Now: How Does the Brain Work?
         ©2011 WGBH Education Foundation



          HISTORY: Mind-Brain Problem
      [1] Brain And Behavior: An Introduction... , p. 3-4.
      [2] ibid., p. 3-4.
      [3] ibid., p. 4.

          HISTORY: Definitions
      [3] ibid., p. 4.

          HISTORY: Descarte
      [3] ibid., p. 4.

          LOCALIZATION: The Electric Brain
      [4] ibid., p. 6.

          LOCALIZATION: Today
      [5] ibid., p. 8.

          NATURE v NURTURE: Genetics (Nurture)
      [6] ibid., p. 9.



René Descartes (1596-1650):






René Descartes (1596-1650):

LAST UPDATED: May 26, 2012
by myself and Caty.