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L5: Biopsychology

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Thomas Spence

on 25 September 2018

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Transcript of L5: Biopsychology

Purely experimental lesion studies are conducted using animal participants.

Brain surgery on humans is undertaken with a goal of medically helping them.

Put your hands together

– the approach explains all behaviour as having a physical basis. The approach ignores the interaction of other elements such as social or cultural influences.

Weaknesses of the Biopsychological Approach

The approach is grounded in hard science – ie it is based on evidence

Strengths of the Biopsychological Approach

EEG (electroencephalogram) measures electrical activity in areas of the brain.

PET scans (Positron Emission Tomography) shows images based on blood flow. Increased blood flow indicates greater activity in relevant area.

fMRI scans (functional Magnetic Resonance Imagery) use magnetic fields and radio pulses to indicate how metabolic activity in areas of the brain changes.

Brain Scanning

Sperry argued that his studies gave considerable support to his argument of
lateralisation of function.
That is, that the different hemispheres of the brain specialise in different tasks, such as the
left hemisphere being responsible for language.

Sperry’s Conclusions

Evidence for lateralisation of functions
Through the case studies Sperry found that the hemisphere deconnection did not appear to affect the patients’ intelligence or personality.

The effects of the surgery did seem to have affected the patients in that they had:
short-term memory deficits
limited concentration spans
orientation problems.

Sperry’s Results

To study the effects of hemisphere
deconnection and to show that each
hemisphere has different functions.

11 ‘split-brain’ patients with a history of

Quasi/Natural Experiment

The study

Genes in human DNA contain instructions for creating the nervous system, which in turn influences thoughts, feelings & behaviour.

Variation of genetic information has helped minds and behaviour to evolve and adapt to the environment. Genetic information is inherited.

Importance of genetic influences

Mind, thoughts, feelings & behaviour have a physical/biological basis.

Studying how the nervous system functions & can be physically altered will help to explain, predict & change thinking, emotions & behaviour.
Importance of the nervous system

This approach considers that
processes are produced
structures and processes.

Humans are complex biological machines.

The Biopsychological Approach

Used to assess possible genetic contribution to behaviour.

Monozygotic twins share 100% genes
Dizygotic twins share 50% genes

If adopted children’s behaviour reflects that of their biological parents rather than that of their adoptive parents, genetic influence may be indicated.

Twin and Adoption Studies

Drugs can be used to increase or decrease chemical activity in the brain.
Altering the levels of certain neurotransmitters (chemical messengers in the brain) has been found to affect

Chemical Manipulation

Electrical stimulation of areas of the brain is now used for therapeutic purposes.

Deep brain stimulation
can be used to deactivate specific areas of the brain to control the tremors associated with conditions such as
MS and Parkinson’s Disease.


Information can also come from studying the effects of lesions (injuries/damage) on behaviour.
Eg: Phineas Gage
2. Lesions

Hemisphere Specialisation

Anatomy (identifying structures)

Lesions (removing or destroying parts of brain)

Stimulation (mild electrical current)

Brain scanning (EEG, PET and fMRI)

Chemical manipulation (using drugs)

Twin and adoption studies (genes)

Methods in this approach
Physiological psychology

Sperry investigated the effects of the severing of the corpus callosum of epileptic patients.

They were undergoing the operation anyway – it was not carried out for purely experimental purposes.

Sperry (1964-8) – Split Brain Studies

Epilepsy and the Corpus Callosum

A seizure is caused by a sudden burst of excess electrical activity in the brain, causing a temporary disruption in the normal message passing between brain cells.

The Corpus Callosum is the Communication Headquarters for the brain - it is responsible for communicating messages from the left to the right hemisphere and vice versa.

The CC is made up of a thick bundle of
nerve fibres called commissural fibres.
These are attached to both the
R and L hemispheres.

The Corpus Callosum

Split Brain Procedures

This is a medical operation known as a Split Brain, carried out as a last resort when medication has failed.

The hemispheres were separated the seizures could be contained in one half of the brain.

Today, a lot of epilepsy can be controlled through medication.

The most severe case of epilepsy is known as a Grand
When somebody has a Grand Mal they can have
uncontrollable movements and lose consciousness.

During a Grand Mal millions of brain cells fire
extensively and this can begin in one hemisphere and be transported into the next through the Corpus Callosum




Brain Scans

Which thumb do you have on top?


Right hemisphere

Are you left or right hemisphere dominant?

The brain is (simply put) divided into two parts.

Everything psychological
is biological
If you set out to count these connections, one connection (synapse) per second, you would finish counting 32 million years after you began counting.

Another way of getting a feeling for this complexity is to consider that a match head contains 1 billion neurons
move your right foot clockwise
A brain's job is to coordinate our dealings with the outside world
discuss in your groups the pros and cons of each perspective in psychology

what is the brain for?
in terms of
nature/ nurture
scientific/ unscientific
types of research methods -

lab, case studies, animal
reductionist/ holistic
deterministic/ freewill
role of cognition
the squid
The frog
the endocrene system
The brain
each neuron = 10,000 connections
25% of energy expended on the brain
repetition physically effects your brain
Luigi Galvani 1780
Pop Quiz
10% bigger
better at language
better at visiospatial tasks
What are the pros and cons of this approach?


behavioural neuroscience
or psychobiology.
Cannot explain how the

Cause and effect
is sometimes confused.

Eg are chemical imbalances in the brain the cause or the effect of depression?
It provides substantial evidence for nature in the nature/nurture debate
Aids the understanding of behaviour which would not be possible to test any other way. E.g. dreaming.

draw a six with your right hand
100,000,000,000 neurons
How do all these neurons fit in the brain?
Put your hands together
research task
Harlow - Phineas Gage (1849)
Broca -Tan (1861)
Wernicke (1874)
Milner HM (1966)

Behaviourism quiz off
What is the difference betweeen the mind and the brain?
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