Critical Thinking

Biological School to take part in an experiment

Biological Psychology research is different than research performed in other psychological areas because biological psychological mainly focuses on the biological aspect of an underlying behavior. The brain, nervous system, endocrine system and genetics are looked at more deeply in order to explain a cause of certain behavior. Biological psychology is the only psychological approach that looks at human behavior from a cellular and structural standpoint thus proving the that everything psychological is also physiological. Cognitive psychology research looks at memory, thinking, problem-solving and how information is processed. Social psychology research looks at the attitudes, interpersonal connections, culture and societal values that one interacts with and how that affects one’s behavior. A lot of research done in cognitive and social psychology are more experimental than biological psychology. One of the most innovative ideas I found was from video 4, about the serendipitous study of Mr. Robison. John Robison, diagnosed with Aspergers, was invited to Harvard Medical School to take part in an experiment that would help scientists learn more about autism, how one area of the brain affects another area of the brain and which in turns affects a person’s behavior. Robison was treated with transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) which were placed with magnetic coils around his scalp that gave minute electrical currents to the brain and altered his brain activity. The doctors targeted different parts of the brain with TMS to see if other parts of the brain had different effect on Robison’s behavior. At first, there was no difference in his behavior but when the doctors targeted the Dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, a part of the brain involved in decision making and complex cognitive and social behavior. By targeting the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex the doctors unlocked the cure for Robison. Robison who could initially not read subtle facial expressions and social cues can now understand them and respond to them accordingly. TMS opened a whole new world for Robison, because now he sees the subtle social message emanating from other people that he was blind to before. Dr.Oberman talks about the flexibility of TMS. Through TMS doctors can decrease or increase activity in a part of the brain. I find it incredible that TMS, even if the doctors got lucky, could be a cure for disorders like autism and can help a lot of people. The next method, after TMS, that provides convincing evidence is explained in video 5. The EEG is not only relatively cheap but it can also pick up on every infinitesimal brain activity that takes place in the brain, such as a blink. The analogy of pebbles being thrown in a pond is a good one, especially the part where thousands of pebbles could be thrown in a pond and ripples would be coming from every direction. Similarly, our brain activity is always ongoing, even when we sleep, so the fact that there is a machine that can capture every brain activity from every direction is extraordinary. Additionally, I also liked video 2 where Mr.Schoonover talks about how our brain can not tell us anything about its structure even if we cut it into the thinnest slice possible and put it under the powerful microscope. It is because of the Golgi stain used by Santano Ramon y Cajal that opened new doors for neuroscientists to learn the wiring of the brain. The golgi stain works by staining only 1 percent of the cells of a tissue instead of all the the cells. This, as Mr.Schoover says, “clears the forest and reveal the trees inside”. Through the application of the golgi stain, neuroscientists learned that our brains have wires known neurons that are connected to each other. Another impressive video was video 1, where Dr. Taylor talks about how she witnessed her stroke take place and “deteriorate in its ability to process all information”. While listening to her story, I was in awe of hearing that a brain researcher who has learned and understood immensely about the brain was so helpless because of one single blood vessel that burst. Dr. Taylor says that it took her 45 minutes to just find a her business card that was located only 1 inch down her card stack. Our left and right hemisphere are mostly separate but they are connected by the corpus callosum which helps with communication between the two hemispheres. Dr.Taylor’s stroke occured in her left hemisphere, the hemisphere responsible for language production, so she was incoherent when talking on the phone to get help. Thankfully, the person on the other side figured out that she needed help and called for help. I found all of the methods in each video exceptional except for video 3. The reason I didn’t find this video very exciting was because of the procedure that is required to map a part of the brain. Dr. Jones explains in his video that after the brain is taken out of the skull, it has to be sliced, frozen and then sliced to the width of a baby’s hair. The thin slice is then put under a microscope slide, applied with stain and then scanned to map the brain. I think this method is extremely tedious. There are other alternatives to find the structure of the brain that are not so tedious. Biological psychology can be limited because experimentation is difficult in biological psychology. It is difficult to have experimental research in biological psychology because it is hard to experiment on a live brain because there aren’t many available and also because there are multiple restrictions from the ethical committees limiting invasive experiment on humans. Many biological psychologist have to research on animal brain that are somewhat similar to human brains. Furthermore, the brain cannot tell us anything just by looking at it. We have to cut open the brain or a piece of the brain to learn more information. For research, biological psychologists have to select brains and they have to be collected as soon as possible because of complex structures that are in the brain and can be altered within minutes of a person being dead. I also think biological psychology can also be limiting in term that it mainly looks at the nature part of the nature/nurture debate. A lot of external factors such as environmental and specific life experiences a person has had are not taken into account in the biological perspective. Everything is either genetics, hormones or neurotransmitters. Nonetheless, biological psychology has many benefits that help us learn more about our brain and how it plays a role in our behavior.

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