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Psychology 261 Physiological Psychology. Welcome to the course!. How does PSYCH 261 fit into the psychology curriculum?. We expect some basic knowledge from PSYCH 101 We DO NOT expect any particular background in the life sciences, but inevitably such background will help you if you have it.

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Psychology 261 physiological psychology

Psychology 261Physiological Psychology

Welcome to the course!

How does psych 261 fit into the psychology curriculum
How does PSYCH 261 fit into the psychology curriculum?

  • We expect some basic knowledge from PSYCH 101

  • We DO NOT expect any particular background in the life sciences, but inevitably such background will help you if you have it.

  • This course serves as prerequisite for: PSYCH 306 (perception), PSYCH 307 (human neuropsychology), PSYCH 399 (Research in behavioural neuroscience), PSYCH 461 (Honours seminar in behavioural neuroscience).

Who is teaching the course
Who is teaching the course?

  • Colin Ellard (phone ext. 6852, email

    • More about me than you care to know.

    • What I can do for you

      • Lectures, questions, evaluation

    • What I can’t do for you

      • Read the textbook or make this really easy

Who else is teaching the course
Who else is teaching the course?

  • The teaching assistants

    • Gillian Munro (, PAS 4219)

    • Chris Striemer (, PAS 4227)

  • What the teaching assistants can do for you

    • Tutorials and office hours

  • What the teaching assistants cannot do for you

    • Tell you what questions are on the tests (they won’t know) or give you extra marks.

What is the textbook
What is the textbook?

  • Biological psychology (Rosenzweig, Breedlove & Leiman) 3rd edition.

    • Used copies MAY be available but check edition

    • One copy will be on reserve in Porter

    • The bookstore doesn’t have enough copies for all of you (but they will get more if they sell out).

    • Don’t ignore the CD – it’s got some good stuff on it.

    • Check out the website ( for great summaries of breaking neuroscience news

How do i get an a
How do I get an ‘A’?

  • All evaluation is by multiple-choice (I don’t like it, but that’s life).

  • The midterm is on October 16th and is worth 40%.

  • The exam is in the exam period and is worth 60%

  • Official documentation is required for a rewrite

  • I will bring example questions to class as often as I can.

  • In the past, few people who have failed to attend class regularly and kept up with the reading have succeeded in the course.

  • Try not to get behind.

  • Ask for help when a problem arises and NOT on the day before the midterm.

The organization of the course
The organization of the course

  • My lectures will follow the syllabus, which is organized in terms of textbook chapters. But my lectures will not necessarily cover everything in the textbook.

  • I will publish coursenotes on the course website in time for you to print off and bring to class if you wish: PSYC261/p261index.html

  • It’s a huge class – but try not to be intimidated about asking questions. Ask on email and I will answer in class.

Three simple requests regarding etiquette
Three simple requests regarding etiquette

  • Please do your best to arrive on time (and I’ll do the same).

  • Please don’t carry out loud, distracting conversations in class.

  • I will always finish class on or before the stroke of 2:20 pm. Please don’t start packing up until I’ve finished speaking.

What a great bunch of topics we have to cover
What a great bunch of topics we have to cover!

  • Basic neuroscience stuff – brain cells, neuroanatomy, how brain cells communicate

  • How we know the external world (the senses)

  • How we engage that world (movement)

  • Sex, sleep and feeling.

Psychology 261

Psychology 261

Biological psychology: Scope and Outlook

Lecture synopsis
Lecture synopsis

  • What is biopsychology?

  • The three main experimental approaches

  • Examples of modern biopsychological research

What s in a name
What’s in a name?

  • Biological psychology or biopsychology

  • Physiological psychology

  • Psychobiology

  • Behavioural Neuroscience

What are we
What are we?

  • As neuroscientists, we’re the behaviour people.

  • As psychologists, we’re the brain people.

What is physiological psychology
What is physiological psychology?

  • The study of the relationship between brain and behaviour

    • study of behaviour

    • comparative/evolutionary approaches

    • developmental approaches

    • mechanism

    • application

The study of behaviour
The study of behaviour

  • structural descriptions of behaviour

    • here’s where we say exactly what is happening (“the gentleman put his left leg over the melon….”)

  • functional descriptions of behaviour

    • this goes beyond direct observation -- makes some inferences about what is being done (“foraging behaviour”)

    • need to be careful with these-- know where your inferences come from

Comparative and evolutionary approaches
Comparative and Evolutionary approaches

  • continuity of behaviour

    • nature is conservative -- expect to see the same things re-used

      • eg. The nerve impulse

  • species-specificity of behaviour

    • nature can be adventurous -- new things can appear to suit the needs of a species

      • eg. The evolution of language

Developmental approaches
Developmental approaches

  • individuals change over the lifespan (ontogeny)

    • Teenagers

RT to identify emotion in pictures like these begins to increase after age 11 and until about age 20. Also, emotion is more often mis-identified

Developmental approaches cont
Developmental Approaches (cont)

  • Teens show more activation in amygdala

  • Adults show more activation on frontal cortex.

This is your brain on fear (if you’re a teenager)

This is your brain on fear (if you’re an adult


  • the real engine of biopsychology

    • how does the organization and activity of neurons explain behaviour?

    • It’s surprisingly rare to be able to give a very complete explanation of anything in neuroscience

Brain behaviour relations
Brain-behaviour relations

  • Edwin Smith Surgical Papyrus (1700 BC)

    • Describes a number of cases of head injuries

    • First mention of crossed relationship between brain and body

    • First mention of aphasia (loss of speech due to damage to left temporal lobe).

Gall and phrenology
Gall and phrenology

  • Early origins of localization of function

Basic idea was that the brain is divided into different areas for different functions (not so silly) and that one could ‘read’ individual brain differences from bumps on the head (somewhat sillier).

The underlying assumptions
The underlying assumptions

  • That the brain has something to do with our behaviour

    • A stronger form of this statement that most physiological psychologists would agree with is to say that the mind is the workings of the brain (This is identity theory, a form of monism).

  • That different parts of the brain do different things

    • Often, this is as far as our analysis has taken us.

Response specificity in the visual system
Response specificity in the visual system

  • Gaze direction cells in neocortex

Cells in the brain of a monkey respond to the direction in which another monkey is looking


  • research can be applied to human problems

    • There are many great examples (recovery of function, addiction, early diagnosis of diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease).

Transplants and implants recovery
Transplants and implants, recovery

There is some evidence that procedures like this can help with Parkinson’s disease and perhaps other afflictions

Birdsong and brain growth
Birdsong and brain growth

Fernando Nottebohm

Cross section of zebra finch brain showing song production (blue) and song learning (red) pathways.

The three main experimental approaches
The three main experimental approaches

  • somatic intervention

  • behavioural intervention

  • correlation

Somatic intervention
Somatic intervention

  • we mess with the brain to affect behaviour

    • introduce a chemical

    • make a lesion

    • stimulate a pathway

Behavioural intervention
Behavioural intervention

  • we mess with behaviour to affect the brain

    • enriched environments

    • imaging, EEG


  • we mess with mathematics to look at the relationship between two variables

    • these methods rely on individual differences

      • are bigger brains better?

      • Is schizophrenia correlated with any interesting structural variation in brains?

Summary behaviour

  • Physiological psychology is at the interface of psychology and neuroscience

  • Physiological psychology is multifaceted, and includes evolutionary, developmental, applied and mechanistic elements

  • The three main experimental approaches involve somatic or behavioural intervention, or correlation.

  • We’re really just getting started – there’s much to be done.

For next time
For next time…. behaviour

  • You should read through Chapter 1 (I’ll bring some questions for you!).

  • Start reading Chapter 2 (neuroanatomy). You will want to read this chapter several times before the midterm. There’s much to learn here.