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3: Biopsychology

Biopsychology is the application of the principles of biology to the study of physiological, genetic, and developmental mechanisms of behavior in humans and other animals. It typically investigates at the level of neurons, neurotransmitters, brain circuitry, hormones and the evolutionary and developmental processes that underlie normal and abnormal behavior.

  • 3.0: Prelude to Biopsychology
    A device’s internal workings are often distinct from its user interface on the outside. For example, we don’t think about microchips and circuits when we turn up the volume on a mobile phone; instead, we think about getting the volume just right. Similarly, the inner workings of the human body are often distinct from the external expression of those workings. It is the job of psychologists to find the connection between these—for example, to figure out how the firings of millions of neurons beco
  • 3.1: Human Genetics
    Psychological researchers study genetics in order to better understand the biological basis that contributes to certain behaviors. While all humans share certain biological mechanisms, we are each unique. And while our bodies have many of the same parts—brains and hormones and cells with genetic codes—these are expressed in a wide variety of behaviors, thoughts, and reactions.
  • 3.2: Cells of the Nervous System
    Learning how the cells and organs (like the brain) function, help us understand the biological basis behind human psychology. The nervous system is composed of two basic cell types: glial cells (also known as glia) and neurons. Glial cells, which outnumber neurons ten to one, are traditionally thought to play a supportive role to neurons, both physically and metabolically.
  • 3.3: Parts of the Nervous System
    The nervous system can be divided into two major subdivisions: the central nervous system (CNS) and the peripheral nervous system (PNS), shown in the figure below. The CNS is comprised of the brain and spinal cord; the PNS connects the CNS to the rest of the body. In this section, we focus on the peripheral nervous system; later, we look at the brain and spinal cord.
  • 3.4: The Brain and Spinal Cord
    The brain is a remarkably complex organ comprised of billions of interconnected neurons and glia. It is a bilateral, or two-sided, structure that can be separated into distinct lobes. Each lobe is associated with certain types of functions, but, ultimately, all of the areas of the brain interact with one another to provide the foundation for our thoughts and behaviors. In this section, we discuss the overall organization of the brain and the functions associated with different brain areas.
  • 3.5: The Endocrine System
    The endocrine system consists of a series of glands that produce chemical substances known as hormones. Like neurotransmitters, hormones are chemical messengers that must bind to a receptor in order to send their signal. However, unlike neurotransmitters, which are released in close proximity to cells with their receptors, hormones are secreted into the bloodstream and travel throughout the body, affecting any cells that contain receptors for them.
  • 3.E: Biopsychology (Exercises)

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