Summary: Introduction

CHAPTER 1: INTRODUCTION TO BRAIN AND BEHAVIOUR

Neuroscience: scientific study of the nervous system

Behavioural Neuroscience: relates behaviour to bodily processes – also called biological psychology, brain and behaviour, physiological psychology

-first ones to study relationship between brain and behaviour were philosophers – philosophy established the scientific method as best tool for finding new knowledge

“Psychology has a long past but only a short history” – formal history is only 100 years but curiosity about behaviour is much further into the past


Understanding of brain’s role in behaviour developed over centuries

-mummification in ancient Egypt only preserved 4 important organs in jar: liver, lungs, stomach, intestines while heart is preserved within the body

-brain was picked out through nostrils and thrown away

-heart is mentioned hundreds of times, as well as references to liver, stomach, and bowels in the religious Quran, Old Testament, New Testament

-Aristotle also considered mental capacities to be properties of the heart, thought brain was a cooling system

-Hippocrates however thought Aristotle’s view was wrong and ascribed emotion, perception and thought as functions of the brain

-by 2nd century, brain-centered view of mental processes became more accepted

-Galen’s experiences in treating head injuries of gladiators led him to propose that behaviour results from movement of ‘animal spirits’ from brain through nerves of body

-Leonardo da Vinci produced exquisite neuroanatomical illustrations of nerves and brain structures

-era of Renaissance presents brain as mysterious and intricate gift from God

-observed that certain depictions of God on the ceiling of Sistine Chapel painted by Michelangelo bear resemblance to human brain

-René Descartes tried explaining how control of behaviour might resemble workings of machine but also argued that free will and moral choice could not arise from mere machine so thought humans had nonmaterial soul as well as material body – dualism

-Thomas Willis – conducted studies to conclude brain coordinates and controls behaviour

Phrenology: specific behaviours, feelings, and personality traits were controlled by corresponding specific regions of the brain by reading person’s character trait by feeling bumps on that person’s head, also helped establish concept of localization of function (different brain regions specialize in specific behaviours)

-later researchers found that damage to specific regions of brain causes predictable impairments; ex. Paul Broca notes that damage to particular region on left side of brain causes problems with speech production, lateralization and localization of language function

-although whole brain is active most of the time, when performing specific tasks, certain brain regions become even more activated

-William James’ book Principles of Psychology highlighted consciousness and other aspects of human experience are seen as properties of the nervous system

-rapid progress was made after this for developing techniques to measure learning and memory, ex. Ivan P. Pavlov and classical conditioning

-Karl Lashley – memory is not localized to only one region of the brain

-Donald O. Hebb, student of Lashley showed that cognitive processing could be accomplished by networks of active neurons, neurons strengthen connections as consequence of experience led to Hebbian synapse, type of plastic connection between neurons

Neuroplasticity: only explanation for ability to learn skills and form memories is that the brain physically changes in some way to encode and store information, ability of nervous system to change in response to experience or environment

Social Neuroscience: most aspects of social behaviour are learned from language we speak to clothes we wear and kinds of food we eat as well as our identity in belonging to larger groups, discover how biological and social factors continually interact and affect each other as behaviour unfolds

Evolutionary Psychology: animal behaviours as adaptations that evolved to solve specific ecological pressure, or natural selection shaping behaviour including specific cognitive abilities

Epigenetics: focus on factors that have lasting effect on patterns of gene expression – turning on or off of specific genes without changing structure of genes themselves, study of factors that affect gene expression without making any changes in the nucleotide sequence of the genes themselves

Neuroeconomics: study of brain mechanisms at work during economic decision making, assessing relative value of each choice available to make conscious decision or mechanisms to inhibit impulsive decision making

Consciousness: state of awareness of one’s own existence, intentions, thoughts, emotions, and experiences


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