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1.4: What are the Divisions of Biopsychology?

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    Learning Objectives
    1. Discuss the different divisions of biopsychology.


    Neuroscientists study how the nervous system develops, its structure, and what it does. Biopsychology is an integrative discipline that draws knowledge from the other neuroscience disciplines. It then applies that knowledge to the study of behavior and mental processes. In this section, we will examine a few of the disciplines of neuroscience that are of particular interest to biopsychology.

    Biopsychology - An Integrative Discipline

    Neuroscience is the scientific study of the nervous system. The more neuroscientific research progresses, the more clearly it is established that human behavior and mental processes—the key interests for psychological study—are intimately intertwined with activity in the brain. It encompasses the branch of biology that deals with the anatomy, biochemistry, molecular biology, and physiology of neurons and neural circuits. It also encompasses cognition (thinking) and human behavior.

    Our focus, biopsychology is a subset of neuroscience that focuses on behavior and mental processes. Consequently, one of the many names for biopsychology is "behavioral neuroscience". Biopsychology aims to understand the biological basis of human behavior and mental processes. It is an integrative discipline that draws knowledge from different divisions of neuroscience. These divisions include but are not limited to:

    • Neurophysiology - the study of the function of the nervous system, focusing on neurons (nerve cells) and their communication.
    • Neuroanatomy - the study of the anatomy or structure of nervous tissue and neural structures of the nervous system.
    • Neuropharmacology - the study of how drugs affect cellular function in the nervous system.
    • Developmental neuroscience - aims to describe the cellular basis of brain development and to address the underlying mechanisms. The field draws on both neuroscience and developmental biology to provide insight into the cellular and molecular mechanisms by which complex nervous systems develop.
    • Cognitive neuroscience - concerned with the scientific study of biological structures and processes underlying cognition, with a focus on the neural elements of mental processes.
    • Computational neuroscience - includes both the study of the information processing functions of the nervous system, and the use of digital computers to study the nervous system. It is an interdisciplinary science that links the diverse fields of neuroscience, cognitive science and psychology, electrical engineering, computer science, physics and mathematics.
    • Neurology - the medical specialty dealing with disorders of the nervous system. It deals with the diagnosis and treatment of all categories of disease involving the central, peripheral, and autonomic nervous systems.
    • Social neuroscience uses the brain and body to understand how we think and act, with a focus on how we think about and act toward other people. It is an interdisciplinary field that uses a range of neuroscience measures to understand how other people influence our thoughts, feelings, and behavior. (We will examine this branch more in depth in Cognition and Intelligence Chapter)
    • Educational neuroscience or neuroeducation, seeks to link an understanding of genetics and brain processes with how people learn, for the purpose of informing classroom instruction and experiences.


    In these sections, you have learned about the disciplines who have contributed to biopsychology in its aim to understand the biological aspect of behavior and mental processes. Biopsychology does not stand on its own. Disciplines such as neuroanatomy contribute to our understanding of the different structures of the nervous system, including the brain. Neuroanatomy has helped with our understanding of how some of the major parts of the brain control and contribute to different behaviors. As each of these disciplines expand, biopsychology is able to draw information from each and develop.


    This page titled 1.4: What are the Divisions of Biopsychology? is shared under a mixed license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Multiple Authors (ASCCC Open Educational Resources Initiative (OERI)) .