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PSYC 2800
Amanda Helleman

Neurobehavioural Disorders • Causes of Abnormal Behavior • Evidence for brain abnormalities in organic-neurological disorders is straightforward, and the causes are generally known – Genetic errors (e.g., Huntington’s disease) – Progressive cell death (e.g., Alzheimer’s disease) – Rapid cell death (e.g., stroke) – Loss of neural connections (e.g., multiple sclerosis) • Far less is known about the causes of behavioral/psychiatric disorders (depression, schizophrenia, etc.), but there must be some abnormality in brain structure or activity(involve changes emotions, motor activity, etc.), but can’t pinpoint causes. Investigating the Neurobiology of Behavioral Disorders • Phenylketonuria (PKU) • Test for it at birth, easy – Behavioral disorder caused by elevated levels of the amino acid phenylalanine in the blood • Results from a defect in the gene for the enzyme phenylalanine hydroxylase (lack this enzyme). Buildup of phenylalanine resulting in mental retardation • Easily fixed, don’t eat food with phenylalanine – Major symptom: severe mental retardation – Unlike PKU, most disorders do not involve a single genetic abnormality and the underlying causes are largely conjectural Challenges in Diagnosis • It is difficult diagnose behavioral disorders – People are seldom objective observers of their own behavior or that of a loved one • The patient and their loved ones may be selective in what they notice • Ex: autism. Don’t want to say something is wrong, just delayed. – People are seldom specific in identifying symptoms • Memory deficits? Say forgetting things but not specific deficit. – Evaluators have their own conceptual biases, which may influence the questions that they ask and the information that they gather. May see bunch of different people who view us through different perspectives and thus have different diagnosis. • Investigating the Neurobiology of Behavioral Disorders • The complexity of the nervous system makes it very difficult to research • Heninger (1999) – There is no clear evidence of a single receptor system with a specific relation to a specific behavior – Ex: Dopamine not just involved in one thing (reward) but also retention, etc. • Animal models of behavioral disorders are useful, but they provide an oversimplified view of the neurobiology of such disorders. Can’t model things perfectly • Ethical limitations to test on humans Identifying and Classifying Mental Disorders • Epidemiology – The study of the distribution and causes of diseases in human populations. How prevalent it is in a pop. – Ex: How many women in Ottawa have breast cancer • DSM – The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the American Psychiatric Association’s classification system for psychiatric disorders (see Table 16-3) – Current edition is DSM-IV-TR, DSM-V slated for 2014 – Checklist of criteria for disorders – Not perfect method, people meet and vote on what gets into DSM – In 70’s homosexuality was a mental disorder • Psychiatric disorders are to some extent arbitrary and depend on prevailing cultural views • Conflict about new disorders going into new DSM The Use of Brain Imaging • Brain imaging techniques are currently not used to diagnose mental disorders • To be clinically useful, imaging tools must be sensitive enough to detect unique features of brain disorders and specific enough to rule out similar conditions. Now can only see gross changes in brain • Still, imaging is shedding new light on behavioral disorders • Ex: early onset (adolescent) schizophrenia = loss of grey matter Treatments for Disorders • The long-term prospects for curing organic or behavioral disorders on the macro level depend on the ability to treat structural and biochemical abnormalities at the micro level (genes, receptor changes, etc.). Must affect micro level to see longterm changes. • Ultimate clinical problem: – Apply the knowledge of behavioral neuroscience to generate treatments that can restore a disordered brain (and mind) to the range of normalcy – Nosology (naming) precedes etiology (cause): how do we treat a disorder when we don’t know what causes it? Name disease before we know what causes it so may be clustering groups of symptoms that may be different diseases all together. – How do we treat disorder when don’t know cause? Give treatments (address symptoms) instead of a cure Neurosurgical Treatments • Either damage or stimulate some dysfunctional area of the brain • Deep brain stimulation (DBS) Neurosurgery in which an electrode is semi- permanently implanted in the brain stimulate a targeted area with a low- voltage electrical current to facilitate behavior • Artificially stimulate – Used to treat Parkinson’s and depression (when anti depressants don’t work) • Neurosurgical Treatments • Stem cell Therapy
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