Psychology has its own biological boundaries. This is in the form of biological psychology or behavioral neuroscience. The main aim of this branch in psychology is to have a clearer picture of the relationship of the mind and body, and mind and brain. It tries to link the brain functions to the different mental processes and behaviors. This type of psychology investigates man’s physiological phenomena such as memory and emotions.
Human beings are more then a collection of systems, more than a collection of organs and more than a collection of cells. The human body is complex. It is an operating organism which functions as a whole. The human body involves a great deal of variety of processes. By examining the parts, it does not mean that one can understand the whole organism (Arnold, 1999).
Biological psychology is the field of psychology which main endeavor was to link the different brain functions to different mental processes and behaviors. Psychologists in this subdiscipline of psychology are often interested in relating biological variables to psychological or behavioral variables. It deals with biological processes and behaviors that are shared with mammalian animals. This is because biological psychologists utilize animals in their experiments. Some of these processes are sensation, perception, motivation, learning memory and control of motor movements (“Biological Psychology”).
The history of Biological psychology emerged from various philosophical views in the 18th and 19th century. However, its study started much earlier. It dates back to Avicenna, a Persian psychologist and physician. He recognized physiological psychology in the treatment of illnesses involving emotions. Avicenna also gave some psychological explanations on somatic illnesses. He believed that humidity inside the brain can cause mood disorders. Humidity is brought by the change with the amount of breath. Another is that happiness increases the breath so it contributes to the brain’s moisture. But then, too much moisture can make the brain loss control thus having mental disorders (“The Mind-Brain Problem”).
The philosophical history of Biological Psychology surfaced from philosophers like Rene Descartes. He believed that the pineal gland was the point of contact between the mind and body. He also proposed a theory that pneumatics or fluid power of bodily fluids is connected to reflexes and motor behavior (“The Mind- Brain Problem”).
Another philosopher who contributed to Biological psychology is William James. He is the one who argued that in the study of psychology there should also be consideration to the understanding of Biology. He also stressed that the functions of the brain must be included in the study of psychology.
The connection between mind and brain became progressively clearer in the nineteenth century. In this century, the doctors started observing patients who suffered from head injuries. The patients usually exhibited alterations in language and memory and some variation in their personalities. One patient is a refined businessman and a loving father became a vulgar person who lacks in affection for his loved ones after a sever blow in the head. These observations is lead researchers to experiment by producing surgical lesions in animals in different regions of the brain to observe what effects these lesions have on behavior (Westen, 1999).
Since its origin, one of the major issues faced by biological psychologists was localization of functions. This entails knowing which different parts of the brain control different aspects of functioning. In 1836, a physician named Marc Dax, noted that lesions on the left side of the brain were associated with aphasia or language disorder. Because of this discovery, many other discoveries linking the left hemisphere of the brain with language function appeared (Westen, 1999). These other discoveries led to the finding of Broca’s and Wernicke’s areas. Broca’s aphasia involves difficulty in production of speech, whereas Wernicke’s aphasia involves difficulty in comprehending language (Westen, 1999).
The clinical assumption of Biological psychology is that organisms share similar biological processes and behaviors. Some of the other disciplines in psychology greatly related with biological psychology are comparative psychology, evolutionary psychology, neuropsychology, clinical psychology, cognitive psychology and experimental psychology (Westen, 1999).
Comparative psychology is the study of behavior and mental processes of animals other than human beings (Westen, 1999). Biological psychologists use animals in their experiments. They compare the results done on these animals to human processes and behaviors. Evolutionary psychology, on the other hand, deals with the explanation of mental and psychological traits and how they evolved to adapt to different stimuli. Neuropsychology is an interdisciplinary field of psychology and neuroscience that aims to explain how the structure and function of the brain relate to certain psychological behaviors (“Evolutionary Psychology”).
Other fields of psychology related with biological psychology such as clinical psychology, cognitive psychology, and experimental psychology are connected with biological psychology because these fields aim to link the physiological processes with different mental processes. Clinical psychology focuses on the nature and treatment of physiological processes that lead to emotional distress. Cognitive psychology examines the nature of thought, memory and language. And, experimental psychology examines mental processes in human and other animals (Westen, 1999).
Some of the noted modern biological psychologists are Nikolaas Tinbergen, Karl von Frisch, Eric Kandel and Arvid Carlsson. Nikolaas Tinbergen is a Dutch ornithologist who won the Nobel Prize for Physiology in 1973. His contribution is the organization and elicitation of individual and social behaviour patterns in animals. Karl von Frisch is an Austrian ethologist who won the same award with Tinbergen. He studied the senses of bees and identified they methods of communication(“Nobel Prize in Physiology/ Medicine 1973”)..Eric Kandel is a neuroscientist whose contribution is the analysis of biochemical changes in neurons assiciated with learning and memory storage. Arvid Carlsson is a neuroscientist most noted for his on the neurotransmitter dopmaine and Parkinson’s disease (“The Nobel Prize in Physiology/ Medicine 2000”).
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