Biological Psychology: An Overview of Behavioral Neuroscience-Part 1

Biological Psychology/Behavioral Neuroscience is the study of the human nervous system and the brain, in both homeostatic and pathological states. Biological neuroscientists try to get a broad understanding of the brains functions and how it translates to human thought processes and behavior. By working up from the Molecular-Cellular-Synaptic-Network-Behavioral levels in the nervous system the neuroscientist tracks the process from the DNA and RNA along with the gene expressions which produce proteins from polypeptide chains.

As far back as 7,000 years ago human skulls have been found with evidence of brain surgery. These ancient skulls had holes drilled in them, a technique known as “Trepanation”, and many of these skulls have been shown to have healing around the holes after receiving this procedure, suggesting that many patients survived this crude surgery in ancient times.

An ancient Egyptian text known as “The Edwin Smith Surgical Papyrus” which may be the oldest known medical journal in the world set forth many sophisticated observations about the nervous system, such as the absence of sensation in the human body, or paralysis was due to damage to the nerves, and listed in the text that these “conditions” were not to be treated, suggesting an understanding that damage was permanent. Greek scholars who studied the Egyptian medical journal in the 4th century put forth that the human brain was the seat of sensation. While Hippocrates correctly stated that epilepsy had its origin in the brain. In the 16th and 17th century in France, Rene Descartes put forward the perspective of “Mind-Body Dualism” which states that the mind is separate (nonphysical) and the body is mechanistic.


(The Edwin Smith Surgical Papyrus)


In the 20th century scientist like Camillo Golgi supported the idea that the nervous system was a vast array of interconnected network of fibers, and Santiago Ramon y Cajal set forth that the nervous system was constructed of separate and independent cells, and his concept was known as the “Neuron Doctrine”.


Luigi Galvani experimented with frogs in a laboratory in his basement in which he demonstrated that electricity played a role in neural communication.

Other scientists, though respectable, like Franz Josef Gall and Johann Gasper Spurzheim in the 18th and 19th century was misguided when they put forth the science of “Phrenology”, in which they thought (in error) that the bumps on someone’s head could be used to correlate an individual’s personality and natural abilities. A bust of a human head was a guide which showed the location of the particular “trait” on the head, which is an example of very bad science.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s