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PSY 2012 General Psychology Chapter 2: Biopsychology

Samuel R. Mathews, Ph.D. Associate Professor The Department of Psychology The University of West Florida

Biological Psychology: Core Concepts

At the species level there are unique characteristics that are explained within biological and psychological sciences from the Evolutionary Perspective

At the individual level unique characteristics are influenced by ones Genotype (inherited genetic make-up from biological parents) and Phenotype (the way the genotype is expressed)

Evolutionary Perspective
All species have a common origin; Individual organisms with attributes that allowed them to survive and breed, were more likely to pass on the genetic structure to offspring who themselves had a higher likelihood of surviving;

Biological Psychology: Core Concepts

Evolutionary Perspective
Based on a scientific approach of prediction, data collection, analysis, interpretation, questioning and further prediction with testing and revision. Other perspectives based on authority or belief that disallow analysis of empirical data in favor of belief are not the purview of science. They are grounded in philosophical or theological perspectives

Biological Psychology: Core Concepts

At the individual level, Genetic Codes play a role in the unique individual characteristics Genotypeunique genetic code inherited by the individual from biological parents

Biological Psychology: Core Concepts

Phenotypeexpression of the genotype in physical and psychological characteristics
Impacted by biological and environmental forces
Biological forces: disease, toxins, injury Environmental forces: access to health care, access to stimulation from the environment

How Natural Selection Works

Environmental pressure
(changes in the environment)

(for resources)

Selection of fittest phenotype

(from among a variety of phenotypes)

Reproductive success
(genotype corresponding to fittest phenotypes passed to next generation)

Frequency of that genotype increases

(in next generation)

The Individual: Chromosomes, Genes, and Inherited DNA

Why are some people shorter than others? Why are some babies unable to digest protein? Why are some children born with Downs syndrome? Why did Sams hair fall out?

The Individual: Chromosomes, Genes, and Inherited DNA

the structure that carries the genetic material (DNA) 23 pairs half contributed by the biological mother and half by the biological father

Chromosomes are made up of geneswith specific DNA codes.

Each gene is responsible for some characteristic of the organism and work in concert with others to yield the whole organism

The Individual: Chromosomes, Genes, and Inherited DNA

One pair of chromosomes determines our biological sex
The biological mother contributes the X The biological father contributes either another X or a Y chromosome.
XX= female (more female fetuses survive than males) XY=male

The Individual: Chromosomes, Genes, and Inherited DNA

Relationship between genotype and characteristics and behaviors is complex;
Inheriting a genotype linked to some psychopathology does not mean individuals will experience that pathology (e.g. schizophrenia). Impact of the pathology is frequently minimized by alterations in the environment (e.g. corrective lenses).

Hot Issues in Genetics

Cloning Choosing the sex of your child Diagnosis of genetic fetal abnormalities Choosing your mate Social engineering

The Central Nervous System

The Homer Brain

The Human Brain

Brain Structures and Functions

Brain stem (reptilian brain)
First to evolve Life-sustaining systems: breathing, pulse rate Similar to brains of reptiles

Coordination of automatic movements (walking, dancing) Processing other temporal (time related) stimuli (e.g. music)

Brain Structures and Functions

Limbic system
Emotion, memories, desires Functions to help us remember highly emotional experiences Contains the hypothalamuscontrol center for many functions

Cerebral cortex
Last to evolve Linked to higher mental processes Different areas or lobes control different functions

Cerebral Cortex: Higher Mental Functions

Frontal Lobe
Executive functionsPlanning, controlling, recognize future outcomes from current actions etc., Brocas area of the frontal lobeproduction of complex language Motor functionscontrols voluntary muscle groups Matures laterlate adolescence into young adulthood Issues focus on culpability for crimes among early and middle adolescents Alcohol likely decreases the functioning of this part of the brain related to impulse control (Amen, 1999)

Parietal Lobe
Receives input from senses Distributes sensory information to other parts of the brain Spatial information is processedlocation of limbs in space, location of sounds, etc., Supports selective attention to particular sensory information With parietal lobe damage, attention may be disrupted (Vecera & Flevaris, 2004)

Occipital Lobe
Visual informationcolor, brightness, motion, etc., Specialized areas for human face recognition Infants, at birth, orient to human face in lieu of other stimuli

Temporal Lobe
Left temporal lobe (Wernekes area) language comprehension, naming, etc.
Auditory sense is processed

Peripheral Nervous System

Somatic Nervous Systemlinks with senses and voluntary muscles
Sensory Nervous Systembrings information FROM the senses to the central nervous system Motor Nervous Systemcarries information from the central nervous system TO the muscles for action

Peripheral Nervous System

Autonomic Nervous Systemlinks internal glands and organs
Sympathetic Divisionarouses our systems when the need arises (e.g. startling stimulus, anxiety producing stimulus, sexual arousal) Parasympathetic Divisioninhibits our systems or reduces the arousal (reduces salivation, inhibits digestive juices in our stomachs)

Putting it all together: Puberty

The experience of puberty is one in which we can examine the relationship among species-specific and individual differences, among the CNS and endocrine system, and social factors.

Puberty Process
Hypothalamus (part of the brain that controls much of the endocrine system) Gonadotropin Releasing Hormones (GRH)Pituitary Gland Pituitary gland GonadotropinGonads (ovaries/testes) Gonadsstimulate release of sex hormones (estrogens/androgens) that stimulate secondary sex characteristics

Puberty Process:
Process begins approximately 2 years prior to initial secondary sex characteristic changes; Timing of puberty, particularly for females, is related to timing of maternal puberty but environmental factors also have a major impact; Hypothalamus secretions typically increase during deep sleep;

Males and females produce both estrogens and androgens but in different proportions;

Puberty Process: Physical Changes

Secondary sex characteristics (Phenotype)
Body/pubic hair (males and females) Breast enlargement (most obvious in females) Increase in growth rate (females and males) Changes in voice (most obvious in males) For females, increase in fat to muscle cell ratio (increase in fat cells relative to muscle cells)

Puberty Process: Physical Changes

For females: as level of estrogen increases, the hypothalamus produces Gonadotropin Inhibiting Hormones (GIH). This inhibits the production of estrogen by the ovaries; The periodic cycle of increases and decreases in estrogen controls the ovulation cycle. Estrogen is stored in fat cells so the increase in fat cells relative to muscle cells allows the critical level of estrogen necessary for ovulation.

Neurological Changes
Fatty tissue surrounding nerve cells in the brain Increases the efficiency of transmission of signals across the synaptic junctions in the brain Made up of cholesterol and proteins Rapid increase of myelinization during and after puberty through adolescence

Neurological Changes
Elaboration of synaptic connections
Neurons form new connections based on experience throughout the lifespan; Plasticity still a major forcebrain responds to stimulation

Neurological Changes
Frontal cortex major area of development across adolescence
Maturation of neurological systems that allow:
Planning Regulation of emotion Monitoring

Prediction based on this is that across adolescence, ability to forecast, anticipate long-term outcomes and recognize risk is limited

Health Practices and Puberty Process

Nutritionbalanced diet including appropriate levels of carbohydrates (myelinization) Sleepreasonable opportunities for deep sleep (supports initiation and maintenance of puberty process) Limited alcohol consumptionsome evidence that alcohol interferes with hormonal balance of pubescent females