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Many occupational hazards of adult life will be greatly alleviated by massage:

  • aching back and shoulder after a long office stint

  • exhaustion or overstrained muscles from physical labor or excessive exercise

  • circulatory problems from too little exercise by sedentary workers.



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Chapter 02 - Neuroscience, Genetics, and Behaviors

  • Franz Gall developed the false theory called Phrenology – where bumps on the head dictate personality and intelligence. But the theory did direct our attention to brain region and function.
  • Psychologists that study these connections between biology and behavior are called Biological Psychologists.

Neural Communication

  • Our Neural System is basically made up of nerve cells or neurons. Each neuron is composed of Dendrites ~ message receiving fibers and Axons ~ message sending fibers which are insulated by the Myelin Sheath ~ fatty cells that help \speed up impulses.
  • Impulses or Action Potential is a brief electrical charge that travels down the axon as it becomes Depolarized due to the movement of positively charged ions entering the axon. After the transmission, the axon becomes Polarized as positive ions are pumped out during the Refractory Period.
  • The intensity of a stimulus is called the Threshold. A stimulus must exceed the threshold in order for a transmission to occur. The neuron will either fire or it won’t. Much like a gun, the neuron either fires or it doesn’t, there are no half-fires. This is called the all-or-none-response; if a stimulus is really strong, only the number of neurons firing will increase, not their speed.
  • The axon terminal of the sending neuron is separated from the receiving neuron by a tiny gap called the Synapse (or Synaptic Cleft). Once the action potential reaches the synapse, neurotransmitters, or chemical messengers, are released into the gap where it will bind onto specific receptor sites on the receiving neuron.
  • The most well know neurotransmitter is Acetylcholine (ACh), it causes muscles to contract in movement.
  • Endorphins are natural opiates produced in the body to control pain and induce pleasure. ("Morphine within")
  • Agonists are molecules which mimics the shape of natural neurotransmitters (Morphine)
  • Antagonists are molecules which block neurotransmitters from binding on receptor sites
  • The brain has a Blood-brain barrier which filters out unwanted chemicals in blood stream.

Neural and Hormonal Systems

  •  The Nervous System is composed of the Central Nervous System (CNS) – brain and spinal cord, and Peripheral Nervous System (PNS) – links CNS to body’s muscles and glands by means of nerves which are bundles of sensory and Motor Neurons (they carry incoming and outgoing information respectively).
  •  The Autonomic Nervous System (under PNS) has Sympathetic Nervous System – arouses the body for defense (increase heartbeat, dilating pupils, inhibit digestion etc.) and Parasympathetic Nervous System – calms the body after stress.
  •  A simple Reflex is an automatic response to stimuli (like knee-jerk) involving messages from Sensory to  Interneuron (Spinal Cord) to Motor Neuron.
  • The Endocrine System (slow hormone secreting system) communicates by releasing Hormones (chemical messengers) into the bloodstream.
  • In times of stress the ANS will signal Adrenal Glands (above kidney) to release epinephrine and norepinephrine hormones (also called adrenaline and noradrenaline.)
  •  Pituitary gland is the most powerful endocrine gland, and under the influence of hypothalamus in brain, pituitary releases hormones that regulate glands and growth.

The Brain

  • Lesions – remove brain tissue
  • Electroencephalogram (EEG) – measures brain electric activity
  • Computed Tomograph (CT or CAT Scan) – taking x-ray photographs of brain
  • Positron emission tomograph (PET Scan) – detects radioactive glucose consumption in brain
  • Magnetic Resonance imaging (MRI) – generates brain images from magnetic activity
  • The brainstem – oldest portion in brain forms into the Medulla Oblongata – regulates involuntary processes like heartbeat and breathing.
  • Within the brainstem lies the reticular formation (looks like a finger-shaped net) which controls arousal, when you wake or sleep.
  • The Thalamus lies above brainstem and is shaped like two eggs. Its function is to act as a sensory switchboard relaying incoming signals to appropriate brain regions. But does not relay sensory signals dealing with smell.
  • The Cerebellum stores partial memory and learning capacities. But it mainly controls balance.
  • Limbic System includes Amygdala – influence emotions (fear, anger), and the Hippocampus – process memory . Removal of amygdala results in emotionless organisms upon arousal.
  • The Hypothalamus maintains body homeostasis (temperature, hunger, growth) and governs pituitary.
  • Glial cells guide and support nerve cells in the brain.
  • The brain is divided into 4 regions.
  • Frontal Lobe – behind forehead – has Motor Cortex (located at the back of frontal lobe, the cortex controls voluntary movement)
  • Parietal Lobe – top to back of head – has Sensory Cortex (located in the beginning of parietal lobe, the cortex processes \bodily senses)
  • Occipital Lobe – back of head – regulates vision.
  • Temporal Lobe – above ears – regulates hearing
  • ¾ of the brain is uncommitted to motor or sensory functions. Theses brain regions are called Association Areas – areas involved in thinking, remembering, and speaking. The larger the association area, the more intelligent the species for they are able to anticipate future events.
  • The case with Phineas Gage showed researchers that damages in the frontal lobe could result in personality alterations because their normal "restraints" or inhibitions are erased. This was due to a tamping rod that shot from his left cheek and out his head, separating his internal motives and external judgement.
  • Stages of Language :
  1. Visual Cortex – occipital lobe (back of head) – sees the visual stimulation (words)
  2. Angular Gyrus – mid-side of parietal lobe – converts words into auditory code
  3. Wernicke’s Area – between temporal and parietal lobe (side of head) - derives meaning from auditory code
  4. Broca’s Area – mid-bottom of frontal lobe – controls motor cortex
  5. Motor Cortex – back of frontal lobe – activates speech muscles to pronounce word
  •  Damage to (1) cannot see, (2) cannot read, (3) cannot understand, (4) and (5) cannot speak.
  • Corpus Callosum joins the two hemispheres and is separated to cure epileptic seizures.
  • People with separated corpus callosums are referred to as Spilt-brain patients. They are unable to say what they see in their left visual field because speech is in left hemisphere and the hemispheres regulate opposite sides of body.
  • When split-brainers are asked to say what they saw, the left hemisphere will say what is seen in right visual field; when asked to point, get, or write what they saw, the right hemisphere will dictate what is seen in the left visual field.
  • Sign language is nevertheless language and is control by left hemisphere, if deaf people get a stroke in left hemisphere, signing will be disrupted.
  • Left Hemisphere : Mathematics, language, logical, reasoning. meaning
  • Right Hemisphere : Perceptual tasks, musical, artistic, emotion, face recognition, copying information.

Genetics and Behavior

  • Chromosomes contain Genes which are made up of DNA. There are 23 chromosomes in human egg and sperm; they are combined (fertilized) to make a 46 chromosome cell.
  • Evolutionary Psychologists study the effects of evolution of behavior of organisms.
  • Behavior Geneticists study genetic and environmental effects on behavior. – using Linkage Analysis.
  • Psychologists study Identical Twins (two babies within one egg) and Fraternal Twins (two babies in 2 separate eggs) to contrast adoption studies.
  • Identical twins have more similarities than fraternal twins.
  • Hertitability tell us what percentage of traits are because of genetic factors. Traits (height, intelligence, eye color etc.) are either due to genetic or environment there are no half-halves. If heritability of intelligence is 70%, that means 70% of the people will have inherited intelligence.  

Critical Thinking ] [ Neuroscience ] Developing Child ] Adolescence ] Sensation ] Perseption ] Consciousness ] Learning ] Memory ] Thinking ] Inteligence ] Motivation ] Emotion ] Personality ] Psych Disorders ] Therapy ] Stress ] Social Psych ] Statistics ] Critical Thinking ]



Myers, David G., Psychology Fifth Edition. Worth Publishers, Inc. New York, NY ©1998


Glossary Terms

Hindsight bias- the tendency to believe, after learning an outcome, that one would have foreseen it. (aka “knew-it all-along phenomenon”)

Critical thinking- thinking that does not blindly accept arguments and conclusions. Rather, it examines assumptions, discerns hidden values, evaluates evidence, and assesses conclusions.

Theory- an explanation using an integrated set of principles that organizes observations and predicts behaviors or events

Hypothesis- a testable prediction, often implied by a theory

Operational definition- a statement of the procedures (operations) used to define research variables. For example, human intelligence may be operationally defined as what an intelligence test measures.

Replication- repeating the essence of a research study, usually with different participants in different situations, to see whether the basic finding extends to other participants and circumstances.

Case study- an observation technique in which one person is studied in depth in the hope of reveling universal principles

Survey- a technique for ascertaining the self-reported attitudes or behaviors of a particular group, usually by questioning a representative, random sample of the group

Population-all the cases in a group being studied, from which samples may be drawn. (Note= except for national studies, this does NOT refer to a country’s whole population)

Random sample- a sample that fairly represents a population because each member has an equal chance inclusion

Naturalistic observation-observing and recording behavior in naturally occurring situations without trying to manipulate and control the situation

Correlation-a measure of the extent to which two factors vary together, and thus of how well either factor predicts the other.

Correlation coefficient- a statistical index of the relationship between two things (from -1 to +1)

Scatterplot- a graphed cluster of dots, each of which represents the values of two variables. The slope of the points suggests the direction of the relationship between the two variables. The amount of scatter suggests the strength of the correlation (little scatter indicates high correlation).

Illusory correlation- the perception of a relationship where none exists

Experiment-a research method in which an investigator manipulates one or more factors (independent variables) to observe the effect in some behavior or mental process ( the dependant variable). By random assignment of participants, the experimenter aims to control other relevant factors.

Random assignment-assigning participants to experimental and control groups by chance, thus minimizing preexisting differences between those assigned to the different groups.

Double-blind procedure-an experimental procedure in which both the research participants and the research staff are ignorant (blind) about whether the research participants have received the treatment or placebo. Commonly used in drug-evaluation studies.

Placebo-(Latin for I shall please)- effect- experimental results caused by expectations alone; any effect on behavior caused by the administration of an inert substance or condition, which the recipient assumes is an active agent.

Experimental group-in an experiment the group that is exposed to the treatment, that is, to one version of the independent variable.

Control group-in an experiment the group that is not exposed to the treatment; contrasts with the experimental group and serves as a comparison for evaluating the effect of the treatment.

Independent variable- the experimental factor that is manipulated; the variable whose effect is being studied

Confounding variable- a factor other than the independent variable that might produce an effect in an experiment

Dependant variable- the outcome factor; the variable that may change in response to manipulations of the independent variable

Mode-the most frequently occurring score(s) in a distribution

Mean-the arithmetic average of a distribution, obtained by adding the scores and then dividing by the number of scores

Median-the middle score in a distribution; half the scores are above it and half are below it

Range- the difference between the highest and lowest scores in a distribution

Standard deviation- a computed measure of how much scores vary around the mean score

Normal curve-normal distribution- a symmetrical, bell shaped curve that describes the distribution of many types of data; most scores fall near the mean (68 percent fall within one standard deviation of it) and fewer and fewer near the extremes

Statistical significance- a statistical statement of how likely it is that an obtained result occurred by chance.

Culture- the enduring behaviors, ideas, attitudes, and traditions shared by a group of people and transmitted from one generation to the next

Informed consent- an ethical principle that research participants be told enough to enable them to choose whether they wish to participate

Debriefing- the post experimental explanation of a study, including its purpose and any deceptions, to its participants


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