Note that each module in the Qualification - Certificate in Biological Psychology is a short course in its own right, and may be studied separately.
Human behaviour is affected not only by the thoughts, feelings and knowledge that we have but also by the physical nature of the brain and it's connections throughout the body. Biopsychology is akin to the hardware of a computer. Our thoughts, feelings, knowledge and such are more akin to the software of a computer.
This certificate is focused more on the "hardware" involved with human behaviour.
It all begins with an understanding of the brain; but that is only the beginning. There is a great deal more to discover if you truly want to begin understanding human behaviour.
The brain may be divided into two almost identical halves. These halves are called the cerebral hemispheres. In fact, the telencephalon, which is the upper part of the forebrain, has a longitudinal fissure running across it which naturally divides these two hemispheres. They are not completely separate, but have fibres connecting them. These fibres allow the two sides of the brain to communicate with each other. Whilst they look similar, usually one hemisphere is dominant over the other. For example, the left hemisphere is usually dominant in right-handed people, and the right hemisphere is dominant in the majority of left-handed people.
The corpus callosum connects the two hemispheres of the brain. It contains many neurons and axons which enable communication between the hemispheres. If the fibres in the corpus callosum are severed or interfered with, this can result in a condition called “split brain”. In some cases, for instance conditions like severe epilepsy, a callosotomy is performed. This is where the fibres between the two hemispheres are severed. This only happens when the epilepsy is severe and medication has not helped.
These divisions can affect the communication between the two sides of the brain in a number of ways. For example, if the person touches an object with their left hand, and receives no visual cues on the right visual field, they cannot say out loud what they are touching. This is thought to be because in each hemisphere there is a tactile representation of what they are holding. However, the speech centre is usually on the left hand side of the brain, so communication between the two sides is inhibited and the person cannot name what is in their left hand.
The division between the hemispheres of the brain is 'lateralisation'. This means that some functions are performed more on one side of the brain compared to the other. In humans, the left hemisphere controls the right side of the body and the right hemisphere controls the left. But not all functions are shared equally. For instance, the left hand side of the brain is usually the area for language ability, and this is probably the most lateralised of functions.
Scientists have studied the brain and behaviour of people whose brains have been injured and compared them to those of healthy people. From such studies it is possible to determine the principle functions of the different areas of the brain. As you might imagine though, there is still a great deal to learn.
The forebrain is also divided into four lobes or sections:
This is located at the back of the brain and mainly deals with visual information from the eyes. At the rear is a region called area 17 and if this area is damaged it causes significant blindness. Damage of this area in the right hemisphere causes blindness in the left eye and left hemisphere causes blindness in the right eye. Another region known as the secondary visual area is responsible for higher visual processing including object recognition and visual discrimination. The occipital lobe is not solely a visual centre though. Some aspects of learning and other functions are also dealt with here.
This is located in the upper-rear portion of the brain. It is concerned with information on perception, magnitude and spatial relationships. The post-central gyrus which is positioned at the anterior part of this lobe is concerned with our sense of touch. Damage to the post-central gyrus causes impaired bodily sensations like failure to recognise objects by touching them or inability to recognise the texture or weight of an object. Another region of this lobe, the secondary somesthetic area is involved in finer sensory discrimination and integration of sensation with touch. Damage to one side of this lobe can cause a person to neglect the opposite side of their body. For instance they may only groom one side of their body and ignore the other.
This is located beneath the parietal lobe. It is concerned with language and memory. Wernicke's area, located in the left temporal lobe, is where much of our language comprehension takes place. The temporal lobe also receives information from the vestibular system and so is associated with balance. The more complex aspects of visual processing are also located here. The temporal lobe is connected to the limbic system and so is also concerned with emotions and motivation and damage to this lobe can also impact upon personality.
This is thought of as our management or executive centre. Broca's area located in the left frontal lobe is concerned with production of speech. The pre-central gyrus in the posterior region deals with movement control mainly on the opposite, or contralateral, side of the body, but sometimes the same side. The prefrontal area is the section which is severed from the rest of the brain during a prefrontal lobotomy, a surgical technique which was formerly used to control schizophrenia. Patients who underwent this procedure often experienced other unwanted effects such as loss of planning skills, poor motivation and blunted emotions which led to the procedure falling out of favour.
This course will improve your job and career prospects and is suitable for:
- People working with medications but want to know more such as nursing home staff and carers
- People working as counsellors but would like to be more informed
- Anyone interested in the effects of drugs and medication upon the human body and mind.
Why Study this Course?
This course is studied by distance learning or online learning. You can study at a time and location you and work at your own pace. So you can study biopsychology when suits you.
Improve your job and career prospects by demonstrating a keeness to undertake further study.
Gain an indepth knowledge of biopsychology.