Biology is the study of all living things whereas psychology deals with the way these living things behave and react to external and internal stimuli. Biological psychology is the study of how a person’s psyche or behavioral characteristics are influenced by biological reasons found inside the brain or central nervous system. Understanding of this field relies on extensive knowledge of the functioning of the brain and nervous system and of difference psychological disorders that can be triggered or influenced by the functioning of the brain and nervous system. Scientists continuously study and gather information on how these two types of science work together and how it relates to other fields such as behavioral, cognitive, comparative, and developmental psychology as well as neurology, genetics, and pharmacology. Primary Focus of Biological Psychology
The primary focus of the study of biological psychology would be to accurately diagnose psychological conditions that have a biological basis or cause in the brain or nervous system. There are many psychological conditions that are caused by malfunction of parts of the brain or issues with how the neurotransmitters process information from stimuli. For instance, depression is a type of mental or psychological disorder that is hypothesized to be caused from a chemical imbalance or an unbalance of neurotransmitters in the brain. Studies have shown that with the introduction of certain types of medications like MAOIs (monoamine oxidase inhibitors) can effectively treat depression. Occasionally, neurotransmitters can be too active and cause conditions such as schizophrenia and research has shown that too much dopamine is responsible. Studying this particular condition causes researchers to develop a line of drugs known as selective-serotonin reuptake inhibitors or SSRIs.
Psychologists and neurologists will continue to research and work with pharmacologists so as to learn more about how brain and nervous system functions impact a person’s psyche and how to control symptoms of disorders with medication therapy. Researching Biological Psychology
As with any field of science, information must be constantly gathered, organized, assessed, and explained through processes such as the scientific method. When studying biological psychology, the most common type of gathering research is through in-depth investigations called case studies. A case study can be a certain individual, a group of individuals, an event, or even an entire community. Usually case studies are preformed through techniques like observation, collection of personal artifacts, physician notes, and interviews. When diagnosing mental illness it is important to rule out all factors or symptoms that are not related to the condition. For instance, poor credit history could be a sign of irrational thought or impulse control and could point to a history of depression, ADHD, or mood disorders. This same poor credit history could also be caused by economic reasons such as job loss. The researcher has to evaluate the facts in the case study to see which parts of the individual’s history is related to the mental disorders and which parts are irrelevant. Only qualified individuals such as therapists, psychiatrists, psychologists, and physicians should conduct any formal case studies due to the nature of the work and the need for interpretation and privacy discretion.
Using the case study method is useful when applying the results to the individual that the study is centered around, however is usually not applicable to the general population. Case studies are often good at providing insight which leads to further research, however, case studies are often difficult to replicate due to the individualistic characteristics that are only relevant to the person that is being studied. There are two major issues when conducting case studies: biased opinions from the researcher conducting the case study and the great amount of time it takes to complete a case study.
Other methods of information gathering include experimental method where data is gathered from observation of groups where they may or may not know they are being studied. Experiments can take place in laboratory or controlled environment or in natural settings.
As in case studies, the experimental methods still revolve around observation and collection of data with interpretation of the said data.
Relationships between the Sciences
Biological psychology is actually part of many other types of sciences such as neurology, behavioral, cognitive, developmental and comparative psychology. Genetics also play a role in biological psychology and knowledge of pharmacology works hand in hand with biological psychology as a way to treat certain mental health problems.
Neurology is the study of the biology if the brain and central nervous system. Neurologists diagnose and treat problems in these areas. Common disorders treated by neurologists are epilepsy, seizure disorders, stroke victims, traumatic brain injury patients, and trauma patients, etc. Many of the conditions that neurologist find and treat can cause mental health disorders caused by damaged portions of the brain. Behavioral, cognitive, comparative, and developmental psychology accesses the symptoms through a variety of observation methods such as studying the way the individual behaves, develops mentally, and how they process information in terms of cognitive ability. Biological psychology bridges the gap between all these fields of study by looking at biological reasons for behavioral, emotional, and mental disorders.
Genetics are considered as a role since certain genetic markers have been found in DNA that make a person predisposed for a condition such as bipolar disorder. Pharmacologists are important to biological psychologists because knowledge of how medication and drugs affect the intricate workings in the brain is necessary. Medication therapy is an experiment in itself since one medication will treat many different conditions in many different people. A common drug is trileptal. This medication has many uses. Trileptal can be used to prevent seizures, control choreaform movements from brain injuries, and even control aggression in autistic individuals. Pharmacologists work hand in hand with biological psychologists to help with suggestions for medications to treat mental health disorders. Conclusion
Biological psychology is the study of how biological factors influence the way someone behaves or reacts in their natural surroundings. Since many mental health disorders have biological causes, it is important to look at all possible symptoms and related conditions when considering a diagnosis. Many techniques are used for researchers to gather data on individuals and are known most often as case studies. Case studies are important tools to learning about different mental health conditions, what causes them, and which type of treatment is necessary whether it be therapy, medication, or a combination of both. Since biological psychology is both a science of biology and psychology, there are many other types of sciences and psychological areas of study that contribute to the field.
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U.S National Library of Medicine. (2010). Mental Health Clinicians’ Belief the Biological, Psychological, and Environmental Bases of Mental Disorders. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2857376/