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AS and A Level: Physiological Psychology

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Five physiological approaches to research

  1. 1 Genetic – seeks to establish the extent to which traits are due to inheritance or environment. Researchers study concordance rates (if one person has a trait or disorder, what is the percentage probability that the relative also has it?) using twin, adoption and family studies e.g. susceptibility to stress.
  2. 2 Evolutionary – seeks to establish continuity between human and other species and explain human behaviours in terms of ecological adaptation, maximising survival and reproduction. Look out for studies on primate or other mammal behaviour that are used to draw conclusions about causes of human behaviour e.g ecological theories of sleep.
  3. 3 Neuroanatomical – seeks to understand the relationship between brain structure and behaviour. Often uses case studies of people with damage to certain parts of the brain or post-mortems of people with abnormal behaviours e.g. case studies of amnesiacs.
  4. 4 Psychobiological – related to the previous approach, but with more of a focus on measuring brain activity using a variety of scanning techniques whilst the individual is engaged in a specific task or activity. Often used for comparisons – eg. the brain activity of diagnosed psychopaths compared against the brain activity of ‘normal’ participants.
  5. 5 Biochemical – related to the previous approach, but with more of a focus on assessing the levels and activity of specified neurotransmitters or hormones and drawing correlations with specific mental states or behaviours e.g. post-natal depression, changes throughout the menstrual cycle.

Five big ideas for physiological psychology essays

  1. 1 Consider the causal nature of research findings – On the other hand, studies that do involve manipulation of an independent variable may require so much control of extraneous variables to produce a robust causal relationship that they can be criticised as being artificial and reductionist.
  2. 2 Consider the scientific nature of claims – Assess the extent to which explanations are supported by scientific research or not. Evaluate the techniques used by psychologists to operationalize mental processes in their research. For example, behavioural responses and psychobiological measures don’t tell us about the nature of thoughts.
  3. 3 Consider determinism – The more scientific the approach, the more determinist it tends to be, because science is the search for causes. Seeking ultimate causes of behaviour or chains of causal links is incompatible with the idea that humans have free will and complete moral responsibility.
  4. 4 Consider reductionism – Reductionism is the principle that one should always seek to understand at the most basic, most fundamental level: e.g reducing our understanding of depression to an explanation about the balance of chemicals in the brain rather than looking at the whole person in their social context. As a rule, the more scientific the approach, the more reductionist it is. Reductionist explanations have the benefit of being able to provide straightforward practical solutions.
  5. 5 Consider the correlational nature of research– Much physiological research is correlational, because it can be unethical to manipulate variables when studying topics such as the relationship between stress and the immune system or extreme sleep deprivation. Such studies can never produce a conclusive causal explanation, no matter how much we would like them to!

Four common brain imaging techniques

  1. 1 fMRI – Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging measures brain activity by measuring blood flow and oxygenation within the brain. When neurons are active they use more oxygen - so higher blood flow in a particular area signifies increased neural activity. fMRI scans are useful for studying the localisation and level of brain activity.
  2. 2 CT– A Computerised Tomography scan builds up an overall picture of the brain based on the way that X-rays are absorbed. Bone and hard tissue absorb more x-rays, soft tissue absorbs less, fluid absorbs very little. CT scans show the main features of the brain but are not so useful for looking at detailed structures.
  3. 3 PET– Positron Emission Tomography uses tiny amounts of radioactive material with very short half-life to map functional processes in the brain. When the radioactive material decays, a positron is emitted and this is detected on the scan. Higher radioactivity is associated with higher levels of brain activity.
  4. 4 EEG – Electroencephalography involves measuring the electrical activity of the brain with electrodes attached to the scalp and coverting the level of activity into an electroencephalogram, which shows the amplitude and frequency of brain waves. EEGs are frequently used in sleep research because it is a non-invasive technique, which can detect minute millisecond length changes in overall brain activity and arousal level.

  • Marked by Teachers essays 33
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  1. Marked by a teacher

    Managing stress through Exercise and Therapy

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    Following long-continued exposure to the same stressor, to which the body had become adjusted, eventually adaptation energy is exhausted. The signs of the alarm reaction reappear, but now may be irreversible, and the individual may experience symptoms of adrenal burnout, which in rare cases cause the immune system to shut down and result in death. In conclusion if the individual can cope than the stress can go away and they may return to normal. If the individual can't cope then the stress can get out of control and the individual can show signs of losing touch with reality and in some cases burnout.

    • Word count: 2763
  2. Describe and evaluate what psychological research has shown us about stress and the immune system

    Corticosteroids' have the basic function of suppressing our immune response system and facilitating the conversion of fat into glucose and fatty acids for energy. It is the long-term arousal associated with stress hormones that causes a variety of effects on the body, which may become pathological and eventually lead to illness. The human immune system is a complex interactive structure that provides a defence against infection. By establishing that immediate physiological changes take place inside the body during a stressful period, we can look closely at the effects of these changes and try to establish whether stress also helps instigates other changes within the body.

    • Word count: 2058
  3. Is a stressful lifestyle a habit as harmful to the body as a long term substance abuse?

    However aroused states also accompany the emotional states of fear and anger. Some evidence suggests that the sensation of arousal appears to interact reflexively with these emotions, with each enhancing the other. As our level of arousal has an effect on our performance at a variety of different tasks. As if we are too relaxed, we become under aroused then we don't perform well and if too anxious we become over aroused or have a hyperactive affect and again performance will suffer. Changes in automatic arousal levels produce a number of physiological changes.

    • Word count: 2033
  4. Describe two psychological wxplanations for schizophrenia and multiple personality disorder

    The 'ego' considers the consequences of an action. The third part of the mind is the 'superego' which develops around the age of four. It contains our moral values which we learn from our parents and society. It contains our social conscience and sense of right or wrong. According to Freud the ego and superego dwell largely in the conscious mind while the id is in the unconscious area. Freud saw humans having two drives or instincts. The first one is 'Eros' the s*x drive and represents our drive to live, prosper and produce offspring.

    • Word count: 2017
  5. psychology: the practical project

    were warned of the side-effects of the adrenalin injection, Adrenalin Misinformed Group were told inaccurate side-effects of the adrenalin injection and the Control Group were given an injection that would have no effect and were given no instructions of what to expect. Participants were then either allocated to the anger condition (Stooge annoyed the participants) or euphoria condition (Stooge entertained the participants). Schacter & Singer found that in the euphoria condition the misinformed participants were happier than all the others.

    • Word count: 2210
  6. Why do we dream?

    for registration purposes, and so that your teacher can check your progress and have a chat with you. Some activities may require you to be outside of the classroom (e.g. on a computer in the LRC), some may require using a laptop in the classroom, or even merely using textbooks in the classroom; some may require overnight research using friends and family. In any event, movement is needed! For those who don't like moving around, tough! Remember to take notes at each stage of the process, and fill in any boxes, answer any questions, etc., as you go along (you'll never remember what you thought or found, otherwise).

    • Word count: 2009
  7. Discuss the importance of dreams in the play

    These were values held by many early European settlers, and have been passed on to subsequent generations. What the American Dream has become is a question under constant discussion, and some believe that it has led to an emphasis on material wealth as a measure of success and/or happiness. The American dream is a dream of having 2 children and living in a perfect house with financial security. This ideal is closely related to Horatio Algerism. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_dream In the play Death of a Salesman, dreams are discussed and shown in many different ways throughout the play.

    • Word count: 2202
  8. The magazine article, 'School demands cause sleep-deprived teens' comprehensively addresses the harmful adolescent health issue of sleep deprivation. The main concepts of this issue outlined in relation to Australian teenagers are -

    * Social factors - school demands, homework, extra-curricula activities, social and family commitments and part-time work - have been identified as the cause for reduction in adolescent normal sleep-times. * The effects of sleep deprivation, reported by adolescence during the school term are - o lower moods o problems waking up o daytime sleepiness o difficulties with concentration and attention o clumsiness o irritability and difficulty controlling emotions o impairment of daytime functioning o lower grades o sleeping problems - eg.

    • Word count: 2624
  9. To What Extent can psychological research provide useful forms of stress management techniques?

    Finally, the participant will transfer this knowledge into everyday situations. Research has shown that biofeedback has been successful in producing long term and short term reductions in heart rate, blood pressure, skin temperature and brain wave rhythms, for example Budzgnoski's study that looked at anxiety headaches. This suggests that the research that led to the employment of biofeedback as a method of stress management was useful. Miller and Dicara's study supports the claim that biofeedback is a useful technique. Miller and Dicara [1967] questioned whether bodily responses could be learned through operant conditioning.

    • Word count: 2202
  10. Critically Discuss the Causes of one Psychological Disorder Depression is one of the most common and treatable of all mental illnesses

    In dysthymia, people feel depressed, have low-self esteem, and concentrate poorly most of the time. This often lasts for years but is a lot milder than major depression. Mental health Professions use the term 'clinical depression' to refer to any of the forms of depression. Although depression can happen at any age, it usually begins during a persons 20's or 30's. There are many symptoms of depression that can be feelings and emotions of everyday life for some people, however for a doctor to decide if somebody is clinically depressed the person must have 5 or more of the symptoms,

    • Word count: 2148
  11. Identify and discuss strategies for coping with Stress

    dilate to permit more air entering the lungs making one's breathing a lot faster and also the adrenal glands secrete adrenaline which stimulates the heart and other body organs. Each of these responses prepares the body to deal with the stressors, as there is an increased physical and psychological state of alertness and readiness. The bodily changes can be maladaptive for the person under stress; for example, stress produces anxiety, which can reduce one's ability to perform a task correctly.

    • Word count: 2514
  12. M.E (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome)

    Most people develop the illness between their early twenties and mid-forties. However M.E. does affect children and young people, generally those between the ages of 13 to 15 but sometimes children as young as five years old. There is currently no single medical or laboratory test to diagnose M.E. This is also the case for many other illnesses that do not have a known single cause. Doctors identify such illnesses by recognising a pattern of symptoms together with features on examination and tests. There is a variation of time lengths as to how long people suffer with M.E.

    • Word count: 2531
  13. "It is proposed that a large proportion of episodes of depression result, at least in part, from the interaction between individuals cognitive vulnerability and the social context in which he or she lives" (Champion & Power, 1995, p.485).

    It is surprising to know that 330 million people worldwide suffer from depression but only a few will receive treatment. It has been estimated that by the year 2020 major depression will be the world's second most debilitating disease, surpassed only by cardiovascular disease. People who become depressed tend to think about themselves and the world around them differently from people who are not vulnerable to depression (Beck, Rush, Shaw & Emery, 1976). Beck (1967) discusses what he calls the vulnerability of the depression-prone person as: 'Attributable to the constellation of enduring negative attitudes about himself, about the world, and about his future.'

    • Word count: 2293
  14. Sleep disorder - 'Insomnia'.

    Different ages require different amount of sleep. For example, infants generally require about 16 hours a day, while teenagers need about 9 hours on average. For most adults, 7 to 8 hours a night appears to be the best amount of sleep, although some people may need as few as 5 hours or as many as 10 hours of sleep each day. However, sleep too much or sleep too less may lead to sleep disorder. What is sleeping disorder? A sleep disorder is a disruptive pattern of sleep that may include difficulty falling or staying asleep, falling asleep at inappropriate times, excessive total sleep time, or abnormal behaviors associated with sleep.

    • Word count: 2058
  15. Insomnia its affects and its treatments.

    One of the causes of insomnia is the use of stimulants. Even though caffeine near bedtime may not disturb sleep, it may trigger awakenings later. Caffeine related ingredients are also found in soft drinks, chocolate, and strong tea. Nicotine is a stimulant and it has been shown that smokers take longer to fall asleep and sleep worse than non-smokers. Ingredients in many commonly used drugs, including non-prescription drugs of weight loss, asthma and colds, can disrupt sleep. Although alcohol before bedtime may stimulate sleep, it may also make sleep unstable throughout the night.

    • Word count: 2054
  16. Different People and their Sleep Needs.

    Although different people require different amounts of sleep we know that without it we could not function very well. Sleep not only gives the body time to rest and helps to ease the stress of everyday life, but it also lets the body repair itself from injuries or illness. The body replenishes and helps the individual to overcome daily obstacles with ease. The amount individual sleep depends on their needs. Work, age, and daily activities contribute greatly in the amount of time we sleep. The vast majority of us need between seven and nine hours of sleep each night.

    • Word count: 2368
  17. Psychopathology.

    Agoraphobia is as I said before a fear of public places - it can result in people being afraid to go out of their homes. This anxiety disorder involves the fear of experiencing a panic attack in a place or situation from which escape may be difficult or embarrassing. The anxiety associated with agoraphobia is so severe that panic attacks are not unusual, and individuals with agoraphobia typically try to avoid the location or cause of their fear People with agoraphobia typically avoid crowded places like streets, crowded stores, churches, and theatres.

    • Word count: 2387
  18. Reticular Activating System.

    (see animal experiments.) 2 There is a lot of complex bio-chemistry in the base of the brain controlling sleep. But they can hardly be there by accident of merely as remnants of past evolution! People on amphetamines (speed etc.) have difficulty on sleeping. These are given as an appetite suppressant. But patients soon get used to them and sleep normally. When they stop taking them they get a massive REM/Dream sleep rebound, (nightmares etc.) Line graph to show R.E.M. rebound and subsequent return to pre-amphetamine taking levels. _______________________________________________ 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 R.E.M. is maintained at a set level and therefore must be useful for something.

    • Word count: 2245
  19. Major depression is the most common chronic condition facing the primary care physician today.

    The number of people seeking help from their GPs for depression was nine million in 1998, (Bps 1999). Bipolar disorder (Mania), generally appears in the early twenties, unlike depression (which is more common in women), Cochrane (1995), bipolar disorder is equal in both men and women, although it is less common than depression. Interestingly there is a disproportionately higher incidence of bipolar disorder among creative people Jamison (1989). For example of forty-seven award winning British writers and artists thirty eight percent were treated for the disorder, the figure in the general population is about one percent. Genetic factors play a major role in the probability of some people experiencing depression occurring in about one in every hundred people.

    • Word count: 2056
  20. Discuss Biological Therapies for Depression.

    SSRIs are another type of antidepressants. An example of a SSRI drug is Prozac. SSRIs work by just raising the serotonin level. It was originally thought to be free from side effects; however, there have been a lot of cases where patients Prozac have attempted suicide after taking Prozac. There has been research done to check the effectiveness of SSRIS. Ferguson et al conducted a meta-analysis. They were looking at treatments with SSRI?s and treatment with placebos. It was found there was a risk of suicide in those that were on the SSRI medication.

    • Word count: 2254
  21. Discuss Research That Has Suggested A Link Between Stress And Ill Health.

    In a study done by Cohen et al (1991) the direct effect stress can have on illness was demonstrated when 394 healthy participants were asked to complete a questionnaire assessing their stress levels, there after they were exposed to five respiratory viruses. Those that experienced the most stress were the most likely to develop a cold and this was the direct effect as there were no other influential variables. All other factors such as age, s*x, weight, diet exercise or sleep had no effect on the likelihood of the participants catching a cold.

    • Word count: 2037
  22. Discuss the role of endogenous pacemakers and exogenous zeitgebers in the sleep/wake cycle, and at least one other biological rhythm

    The SCN then activates the pineal gland, which releases the hormone melatonin, making us feel tired and want to sleep. This shows us that although both endogenous pacemakers and exogenous zeitgebers are important, the pacemakers appear to be the dominant component in terms of regulating the cycle. Melatonin has also been found to stimulate the immune system, and it also regulates the production of hormones such as oestrogen and testosterone. If the SCN is damaged or connections from the eyes to the SCN are damaged or destroyed, this will mean that the circadian rhythm of the sleep wake cycle will disappear completely.

    • Word count: 2034
  23. Discuss theories of sleep

    However, there are numerous problematic anomalies involved in the evolutionary theory as it leaves many topics open for dispute. It is argued that in reality and in contrast to the theory- the species most at risk such as herbivores sleep the least whereas those at minimum risk such as big cats can sleep for most of the day. Thus, it is evident that species at risk do not essentially sleep for protection as if this was the case, then they?d be sleeping for longer than those species at little risk.

    • Word count: 2159
  24. I will talk about the history and what the psychological and physical aspects of hypnosis are. Further to that I will be discussing the role of relaxation in hypnotherapy

    Corydon Hammond) This supports the idea that under hypnosis the conscious mind takes a back seat and the sub conscious mind takes over, e.g. when you are driving yourself along a familiar road past your exit, or you suddenly became aware of yourself behind the wheel and wondered where you were going. Everything we learn is stored in our subconscious. Because we have already learned to drive, our driving skill is stored in our subconscious (p11 hypnosis for change by Hadley and Staudacher)

    • Word count: 2245

Conclusion analysis

Good conclusions usually refer back to the question or title and address it directly - for example by using key words from the title.
How well do you think these conclusions address the title or question? Answering these questions should help you find out.

  1. Do they use key words from the title or question?
  2. Do they answer the question directly?
  3. Can you work out the question or title just by reading the conclusion?
  • Compare and contrast biological and psychological explanations of anxiety disorders

    "The behavioral view is that individuals are active in determining their behaviour. There is evidence to support the behavioral views. Behaviorists argue that phobias are learnt by classical conditioning and reinforced by operant conditioning. In concerning depression, according to, Lewinsohn (1974), a depressed person becomes trapped in a cycle of withdrawal which leads to a lack of positive reinforcement, perpetuating depression. Socially unskilled people may be more prone to depression. The problem with the behavioral account as we have seen is it has difficulties accounting for why people all over the world are similar."

  • To What Extent can psychological research provide useful forms of stress management techniques?

    "In conclusion, psychological research highlights the variety of stress management techniques and programmes as well as their respective strengths and weaknesses. However, the most appropriate method of stress management appears to depend on individual differences so a clear determination of the most useful method can not be reached."

  • Discuss the genetic and biochemical explanations of schizophrenia

    "In conclusion, dopamine is probably of importance in understanding schizophrenia. However, it looks increasingly as if there are various complex differences in dopamine functioning between those with schizophrenia and healthy individuals. There is also the causality issue. If we find an association between having schizophrenia and having high levels of dopamine, the excessive dopamine levels might have played a part in causing the schizophrenia. However, it is also possible that elevated dopamine levels are in part a consequence of having schizophrenia."

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