Atypical and Biopsychology: Brain and Behaviour

Explain how psychoactive drugs exert their effect on the brain

The ability of psychoactive drugs to alter consciousness is connected to their impact on the brain cells activity and on the work of neurotransmitters namely (Coon, 2005). Neurotransmitters can be defined as the “chemicals that carry messages between brain cells” (Coon, 2005, p. 238). Psychoactive drugs have the ability to alter or replace these chemicals imitating them. The effects of psychoactive drugs on the brain are versatile.

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For instance, under the influence of such drugs as amphetamine, ecstasy, or some anti-depressant drugs the brain activity is stimulated and increases significantly due to the release of a much larger portion of neurotransmitters (Coon, 2005). There is another type of drugs that tend to slow down the elimination of neurotransmitters from the brain, so they remain active for a much longer time than they would naturally. This effect causes the prolonged stimulation of the brain. An example of a drug that has this property is cocaine. Finally, opiates, alcohol, tranquillizers, and nicotine function by means of imitation of neurotransmitters. They impact particular kind of brain cells and, as a result, may have a stimulating or sedative effect (Coon, 2005).

Discuss the biological psychology of aggression as an emotion

Aggression is defined as an act of violence or hostility. One may distinguish between two main types of aggressive behaviour. The first type is characterized as predatorial aggression that often occurs in nature when a predator attacks a victim. This action is conducted with the purpose of survival as one animal attacks another for food. This type of aggression is unemotional, and the attack is planned and carefully prepared.

The second type of aggression is impulsive, and it occurs as a response to an external stimulus that causes feelings of fear or anger (Freberg, 2009). The correlates of aggressive behaviour are the subcortical structures and amygdala and are not inhibited by the prefrontal cortex or anterior cingulate cortex (Freberg, 2009). The impulsivity of aggression as emotion and its fast occurrence is explained by the fact that the frontal cortical areas of the brain are not the participants of the process. If they are involved, the control of these areas will not allow the aggressive and impulsive reactions to happen.

Outline the role of the lateral geniculate nucleus in vision

The optic nerve is responsible for two different visual pathways that differ according to the type of information they transfer. The geniculostriate system represents the first visual pathway that begins at the optic chasm. The information from the two visual fields (the left and the right) is delivered to both hemispheres of the brain. The lateral geniculate nucleus is located in the thalamus and serves as the main termination of the optic paths (Granlund & Knutsson, 2013).

The lateral geniculate nucleus includes six different layers that are laid on top of one another. Each of these layers responds to just one eye, and the layers can interact with one another as well (Granlund & Knutsson, 2013). In the vision, the functions of the neurons of the lateral geniculate nucleus include the perception of colour and help to detect movement and shape. Besides, these neurons can be divided into three main groups that are distinguished based on the layers in which they are located and the retinal ganglion cells to which they respond. The concentric perceptive fields also vary according to the type of lateral geniculate nucleus neurons types.

Evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of EEG as a method for studying the brain

As a method for studying the brain, EEG is based on the recording and analysis of voltages in the scalp of a human being for the further interpretation of their behaviours and patterns (Gramann, Jung, Ferris, Lin, & Makeig, 2014). The voltages recorded during EEG come from the grey matter of the brain. Over the last several decades this method has gained popularity due to its multiple advantages such as its relatively low cost and physical convenience for the participants (it has a low weight and is easy to wear).

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Finally, its temporal resolution is high, which allows it to be used for the examination of the brain dynamics underlying movements one may perform reacting to different situations and environments (Gramann et al., 2014). The disadvantage of this method is the presence of movement artefacts during the examination; they complicate the interpretation of movements and forcing scientists to focus on static conditions. The main disadvantage of the use of EEG as a method to study the brain is the difficulty of recording motion and the brain dynamics synchronously (Gramann et al., 2014).

Discuss the current understanding of the function of sleep?

There are a number of different theories as to the function of sleep; among them, there are inactivity, energy conservation, and restorative theories (Why Do We Sleep, Anyway?, n. d.). All of these theories provide assumptions and explanations as to why living beings require sleep. The importance of sleep has been proved by sleep deprivation tests that revealed which processes begin to malfunction due to the lack of sleep (Drucker-Colin, 2012).

The most recent theory of sleep functions is focused on the correlation between sleep and the learning and development of people’s brains. The theory finds the connections between the sleeping patterns of infants and children (who often require up to 14 hours of sleep a day) and relates them to their capacity to advance and develop. The theory underlines that in the sleep of young children, the phase called REM (the one that is responsible for the active dreaming) occupies about fifty per cent of the overall sleeping time (Why Do We Sleep, Anyway? n. d.). The sleep deprivation works the opposite way and makes it difficult for the human beings to learn and perform tasks that require concentration and thinking (Drucker-Colin, 2012).

Evaluate the idea that Parkinson’s disease is an example of a deficit in procedural memory

Procedural memory is characterised as an individual’s ability to adopt new behaviours and learn skills (Budson & Solomon, 2015). The skills stored in the procedural memory are performed automatically and can be done by people unconsciously.

An example of such skill is reading or riding a bicycle. There is an idea that Parkinson’s disease impacts procedural memory and causes a deficit (Budson & Solomon, 2015). As a result, participating in the research targeting the deficit of procedural memory, the individuals affected by Parkinson’s disease demonstrate a lack of automatism performing such skills as inverted reading and sound form association. However, similar difficulties are experienced by the aged people without Parkinson’s disease so it can be understood as a lack of automatism rather than a deficiency of procedural memory.

Discuss the role of the orbitofrontal cortex in aggression

The orbitofrontal cortex is responsible for the individuals’ ability to learn from negative past experiences related to social situations and prevents humans from getting consciously involved in the same socially inappropriate situations over and over again (Behrendt, 2011). The feeling of anger occurs in cases when the inhibition of the aggressive reactions and responses in allowed. That way, the aggressive feelings will continue to appear or accumulate up to the moment when an individual finds an outlet for their aggression that qualifies as socially acceptable (Behrendt, 2011). That way, the orbitofrontal cortex is associated with the link between the feeling of anger and the aggressive expressions of it. In other words, the orbitofrontal cortex represents the responses to anger, but not the feeling itself (Behrendt, 2011).

The damage of orbitofrontal cortex leads to the suppression of its functions and the decision-making in response to stimuli triggering aggressive reactions. As a result, such behaviours as irrational risk-taking, socially inappropriate conduct, or impaired assessment of the future outcomes may occur. In other words, the impulsive aggressive behaviours observed in individuals with various personality disorders and failure to take into consideration the possible social punishments are associated with the metabolic dysfunctions of the orbitofrontal cortex.

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Describe the aetiology of anxiety disorders from a biological prospective

Aetiology stands for the identification of the factors that cause disorders (Etiology, n. d.). In anxiety disorders, the biological perspective maintains that the feeling of anxiety occurs due to the firing neurons in the brain. The neurons communicate through gamma-aminobutyric acid that is a neurotransmitter. Undergoing a stressful situation related to fears and phobias, some neurons in an individual’s brain begin to fire and anxiety appears.

After the stressful situation is over, gamma-aminobutyric acid is released in the brain to carry the message for the neurons to stop firing (Etiology, n. d.). As a result, the biological perspective on the cause of anxiety connects the presence of gamma-aminobutyric acid to it. In other words, the individuals suffering from anxieties are argued to either have a low supply of gamma-aminobutyric acid or lack the receptor sites for the acid (Etiology, n. d.). The researchers also know that substances such as benzodiazepines (present in such drugs and Xanax and Valium) help to stop anxiety. The medications for anxiety are called anxiolytics.

‘Love is an addiction’ discuss this from a neurobiological prospective

In neurobiology, the state one experience being in love has been compared and likened to sickness, insanity, and addiction (Cozolino, 2014). On the outside, this resemblance is expressed in the obsessions (just like an addict is obsessed with a substance). The behavioural patterns that confirm the resemblance between love and addiction are the loss of self-control, reason, and an extremely strong longing for an object of love (Cozolino, 2014).

There is an opinion that the cause of drug addictions lies in the individuals’ desire to experience the pleasure normally provided by close relationships (Cozolino, 2014). That way, a lonely or underappreciated person is believed to seek a replacement of the stimulus and turn to drugs for that. The overall indifference towards the other human beings demonstrated by the drug addicts serves as the confirmation of this idea. Biologically, the addictive drugs work through the stimulation of the reward circuits of the brain and deployment signals that indicate a positive experience that needs to be memorized and repeated (Coon, 2005).

The chemicals contained in the addictive drugs tend to “fool” the biology of the brain provoking the repetitive search for the substances stimulating the reward pathways. The feeling of love works exactly the same way, stimulating the reward circuits and making people “addicted” to love ever since childhood. Parental and romantic love have the same neurobiological descriptions, and this explains why the whole world is obsessed with the search for love using all the available means.

Reference List

Behrendt, R. (2011). Neuroanatomy of social behaviour. London, United Kingdom: Karnac Books.

Budson, A., & Solomon, P. (2015). Memory Loss, Alzheimer’s Disease, and Dementia. London, United Kingdom: Elsevier Health Sciences.

Coon, D. (2005). Psychology: A Modular Approach to Mind and Behaviour. Sydney, Australia: Wadsworth/Thomson Learning.

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Cozolino, L. (2014). The Neuroscience of Human Relationships: Attachment and the Developing Social Brain (Norton Series on Interpersonal Neurobiology). New York, NY: W. W. Norton & Company.

Drucker-Colin, R. (2012). The Functions of Sleep. Netherlands, Amsterdam: Elsevier.

Etiology. (n. d.). Web.

Freberg, L. (2009). Discovering biological psychology. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin.

Gramann, K., Jung, T., Ferris, D. P., Lin, C., & Makeig, S. (2014). Towards a New Cognitive Neuroscience: Modeling Natural Brain Dynamics. Lausanne, Switzerland Frontiers.

Granlund, G., & Knutsson, H. (2013). Signal processing for computer vision. New York, NY: Springer Science and Business Media.

Why Do We Sleep, Anyway? (n. d.). Web.

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