Behavioral neuroscience

"Psychobiology" redirects here. For the journal, see Cognitive, Affective, & Behavioral Neuroscience.
"Biological psychology" redirects here. For the journal, see Biological Psychology (journal).

Behavioral neuroscience, also known as biological psychology,[1] biopsychology, or psychobiology[2] is the application of the principles of biology to the study of physiological, genetic, and developmental mechanisms of behavior in humans and other animals. [3]


Behavioral neuroscience as a scientific discipline emerged from a variety of scientific and philosophical traditions in the 18th and 19th centuries. In philosophy, people like René Descartes proposed physical models to explain animal and human behavior. Descartes, for example, suggested that the pineal gland, a midline unpaired structure in the brain of many organisms, was the point of contact between mind and body. Descartes also elaborated on a theory in which the pneumatics of bodily fluids could explain reflexes and other motor behavior. This theory was inspired by moving statues in a garden in Paris.[4]

Other philosophers also helped give birth to psychology. One of the earliest textbooks in the new field, The Principles of Psychology by William James, argues that the scientific study of psychology should be grounded in an understanding of biology:

Bodily experiences, therefore, and more particularly brain-experiences, must take a place amongst those conditions of the mental life of which Psychology need take account. The spiritualist and the associationist must both be 'cerebralists,' to the extent at least of admitting that certain peculiarities in the way of working of their own favorite principles are explicable only by the fact that the brain laws are a codeterminant of their result.

Our first conclusion, then, is that a certain amount of brain-physiology must be presupposed or included in Psychology.[5]

The emergence of both psychology and behavioral neuroscience as legitimate sciences can be traced from the emergence of physiology from anatomy, particularly neuroanatomy. Physiologists conducted experiments on living organisms, a practice that was distrusted by the dominant anatomists of the 18th and 19th centuries.[6] The influential work of Claude Bernard, Charles Bell, and William Harvey helped to convince the scientific community that reliable data could be obtained from living subjects.

Even before the 18th and 19th century, behavioral neuroscience was beginning to take form as far back as 1700 B.C.[7] The question that seems to continually arise is what is the connection between the mind and body. The debate is formally referred to as the Mind-body problem. There are two major schools of thought that attempt to resolve the mind–body problem; monism and dualism.[4] Plato and Aristotle are two of several philosophers who participated in this debate. Plato believed that the brain was where all mental thought and processes happened.[7] In contrast, Aristotle believed that the brain served the purpose of cooling down the emotions derived from the heart.[4] The Mind-body problem was a stepping stone toward attempting to understand the connection between the mind and body.

Another debate arose about was localization of function or Functional specialization (brain) versus equipotentiality which played a significant role in the development in behavioral neuroscience. As a result of localization of function research, many famous people found within psychology have come to various different conclusions. Wilder Penfield was able to develop a map of the cerebral cortex through studying epileptic patients along with Rassmussen.[4] Research on localization of function has led behavioral neuroscientist to a better understanding of which parts of the brain control behavior. This is best exemplified through the case study of Phineas Gage.

The term "psychobiology" has been used in a variety of contexts, emphasizing the importance of biology, which is the discipline that studies organic, neural and cellular modifications in behavior, plasticity in neuroscience, and biological diseases in all aspects, in addition, biology focuses and analyzes behavior and all the subjects it is concerned about, from a scientific point of view. In this context, psychology helps as a complementary, but important discipline in the neurobiological sciences. The role of psychology in this questions is that of a social tool that backs up the main or strongest biological science. The term "psychobiology" was first used in its modern sense by Knight Dunlap in his book An Outline of Psychobiology (1914).[8] Dunlap also was the founder and editor-in-chief of the journal Psychobiology. In the announcement of that journal, Dunlap writes that the journal will publish research "...bearing on the interconnection of mental and physiological functions", which describes the field of behavioral neuroscience even in its modern sense.[8]

Relationship to other fields of psychology and biology

In many cases, humans may serve as experimental subjects in behavioral neuroscience experiments; however, a great deal of the experimental literature in behavioral neuroscience comes from the study of non-human species, most frequently rats, mice, and monkeys. As a result, a critical assumption in behavioral neuroscience is that organisms share biological and behavioral similarities, enough to permit extrapolations across species. This allies behavioral neuroscience closely with comparative psychology, evolutionary psychology, evolutionary biology, and neurobiology. Behavioral neuroscience also has paradigmatic and methodological similarities to neuropsychology, which relies heavily on the study of the behavior of humans with nervous system dysfunction (i.e., a non-experimentally based biological manipulation).

Synonyms for behavioral neuroscience include biopsychology, biological psychology, and psychobiology.[9] Physiological psychology is a subfield of behavioral neuroscience, with an appropriately narrower definition

Research methods

The distinguishing characteristic of a behavioral neuroscience experiment is that either the independent variable of the experiment is biological, or some dependent variable is biological. In other words, the nervous system of the organism under study is permanently or temporarily altered, or some aspect of the nervous system is measured (usually to be related to a behavioral variable).

Disabling or decreasing neural function

Enhancing Neural Function

Measuring neural activity

Genetic techniques

Limitations and advantages

Different manipulations have advantages and limitations. Neural tissue destroyed by surgery, electric shock or neurotoxcin is a permanent manipulation and therefore limits follow-up investigation.[23] Most genetic manipulation techniques are also considered permanent.[23] Temporary lesions can be achieved with advanced in genetic manipulations, for example, certain genes can now be switched on and off with diet.[23] Pharmacological manipulations also allow blocking of certain neurotransmitters temporarily as the function returns to its previous state after the drug has been metabolized.[23]

Topic areas in behavioral neuroscience

In general, behavioral neuroscientists study similar themes and issues as academic psychologists, though limited by the need to use nonhuman animals. As a result, the bulk of literature in behavioral neuroscience deals with mental processes and behaviors that are shared across different animal models such as:

However, with increasing technical sophistication and with the development of more precise noninvasive methods that can be applied to human subjects, behavioral neuroscientists are beginning to contribute to other classical topic areas of psychology, philosophy, and linguistics, such as:

Behavioral neuroscience has also had a strong history of contributing to the understanding of medical disorders, including those that fall under the purview of clinical psychology and biological psychopathology (also known as abnormal psychology). Although animal models do not exist for all mental illnesses, the field has contributed important therapeutic data on a variety of conditions, including:


Nobel Laureates

The following Nobel Prize winners could reasonably be considered behavioral neuroscientists or neurobiologists. (This list omits winners who were almost exclusively neuroanatomists or neurophysiologists; i.e., those that did not measure behavioral or neurobiological variables.)

Kavli Prize in Neuroscience

See also


  1. Breedlove, Watson, Rosenzweig, Biological Psychology: An Introduction to Behavioral and Cognitive Neuroscience, 6/e, ISBN 978-0-87893-705-9, p. 2
  2. Psychobiology, Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary
  3. Thomas, R.K. 1993, "INTRODUCTION: A Biopsychology Festschrift in Honor of Lelon J. Peacock", Journal of General Psychology, vol. 120, no. 1, pp. 5.
  4. 1 2 3 4 Carlson, Neil (2007). Physiology of Behavior (9th Ed.). Allyn and Bacon. pp. 11–14. ISBN 0-205-46724-5.
  5. James, William (1950/1890). The Principles of Psychology, Vol. One. Dover Publications, Inc. pp. 4–5. ISBN 0-486-20381-6. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  6. Shepherd, Gordon M. (1991). Foundations of the Neuron Doctrine. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-506491-7.
  7. 1 2 "History of Neuroscience". Columbia University. Retrieved 2014-05-04.
  8. 1 2 Dewsbury, Donald (1991). "Psychobiology". American Psychologist. 46: 198–205. doi:10.1037/0003-066x.46.3.198.
  9. S. Marc Breedlove, Mark Rosenzweig and Neil V. Watson (2007). Biological Psychology: An Introduction to Behavioral and Cognitive Neuroscience 6e. Sinauer Associates. ISBN 978-0-87893-705-9
  10. Kim, Jeansok J.; DeCola, Joseph P.; Landeira-Fernandez, Jesus; Fanselow, Michael S. "N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor antagonist APV blocks acquisition but not expression of fear conditioning." Behavioral Neuroscience. Vol 105(1), Feb 1991, 126-133. {doi|10.1037/0735-7044.105.1.126}
  11. Schneider et al. "Controlling Neuronal Activity." American Journal of Psychiatry 165:562, May 2008 doi:10.1176/appi.ajp.2008.08030444
  12. Zhang, et al. "Multimodal fast optical interrogation of neural circuitry." Nature. Vol 446. 5 April 2007. doi:10.1038/nature05744
  13. Chow, B. Y. et al. "High-performance genetically targetable optical neural silencing by light-driven proton pumps." Nature. Vol 463. 7 January 2010
  14. Gradinaru, Thompson, and Deisseroth. "eNpHR: a Natronomonas halorhodopsin enhanced for optogenetic applications." Brain cell Biology. Vol 36 (1-4). Aug 2008. doi:10.1007/s11068-008-9027-6
  15. Zhang, Wang, Boyden, and Deisseroth. "Channelrhodopsin-2 and optical control of excitable cells." Nature Methods. VOL.3 NO.10. OCTOBER 2006
  16. Gradinaru et al. "Molecular and Cellular Approaches for Diversifying and Extending Optogenetics." Cell. 2010. doi:10.1016/j.cell.2010.02.037
  17. Ebner, T. J. and Chen, G. "Use of voltage-sensitive dyes and optical recordings in the central nervous system." Progress in Neurobiology Volume 46, Issue 5, August 1995, 463-506. doi:10.1016/0301-0082(95)00010-S
  18. Micah S. Siegel and Ehud Y. Isacoff. "A Genetically Encoded Optical Probe of Membrane Voltage."Neuron, Vol. 19, 735–741, October, 1997
  19. O'Donovan, Hoa, Sholomenkoa, and Yeea. "Real-time imaging of neurons retrogradely and anterogradely labelled with calcium-sensitive dyes." Journal of Neuroscience Methods. Vol 46, Issue 2, February 1993, 91-106. doi:10.1016/0165-0270(93)90145-H
  20. Nicola Heim and Oliver Griesbeck. "Genetically Encoded Indicators of Cellular Calcium Dynamics Based on Troponin C and Green Fluorescent Protein." The Journal of Biological Chemistry, 279, 14280-14286. April 2, 2004 doi:10.1074/jbc.M312751200
  21. Gero Miesenböck, Dino A. De Angelis & James E. Rothman1. "Visualizing secretion and synaptic transmission with pH-sensitive green fluorescent proteins." Nature 394, 192-195 (9 July 1998) | doi:10.1038/28190
  22. von Heimendahl, M., Itskov, P., Arabzadeh, E., & Diamond, M. (2007). Neuronal activity in rat barrel cortex underlying texture discrimination. PLoS Biol, 5(11), e305.
  23. 1 2 3 4 T Abel, KM Lattal (2001) "Molecular mechanisms of memory acquisition, consolidation and retrieval" Current Opinion in Neurobiology

External links

Listen to this article (info/dl)

This audio file was created from a revision of the "Behavioral neuroscience" article dated 2006-12-18, and does not reflect subsequent edits to the article. (Audio help)
More spoken articles

This article is issued from Wikipedia - version of the 12/1/2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.