• Approximately 100 billion neurons, 100 trillion neural connections and a nearly infinite possible
pathways in the brain
• Neuroscience is comprised of several related disciplines, this course will deal mainly with
The Case of Jimmie G:
• Very intelligent and friendly. Seemed to have normal capacity of a person.
• Unable to formulate new memories after the age of 20, but could remember everything previous.
• No short term memory.
• Believed he was 19, and couldn't understand that he was, in fact, 49.
• His condition was the result of long-term alcoholism
• The condition Jimmie G suffered from was first described by a Russian scientist, S. S. Korsakoff.
The condition became known as Korsakoff's Syndrome.
o Primary symptom is severe memory loss
o Occurs commonly among alcoholic patients, and was initially believed to be caused by
consumption of alcohol.
o Actual cause of Korsakoff's Syndrome is thiamine deficiency.
o Evidence for the thiamine-deficiency theory was first presented when Korsakoff's syndrome
was observed among sufferers of severe malnutrition who did not have access to alcohol.
o Alcohol interferes with the metabolism of thiamine.
o Korsakoff's syndrome slows with the administration of large doses of thiamine, but the brain
damage incured prior to treatment is usually permanent.
Four Major Themes of this Book
o Progress occurs when people are able to break free from conventional thinking patterns and
develop new ways of approaching problems
• Clinical implications
o Much of what biopsychologists know about the 'normal brain' has been discovered through the
study of disordered brains.
o What biopsychologists have discovered about disordered brains is often able to be used
curatively or restoratively
• The evolutionary perspective
o Considering the environment in which traits develop can give insight into fundamental
questions about biopsychology
o ComparitiveApproach: Understanding biological phenomena by comparing how it occurs in
o The brain is not a statically wired entity incapable of change. The brain is highly adaptive,
rewiring itself in response to experiences and the individual's genes.
o The discovery of neuroplasticity, made in the early 1990's, is arguably one of the most
influential discoveries of modern Neuroscience. What is Biopsychology?
• Biopsychology: The scientific study of the biology of behaviour
• Biopsychology didn't develop into its own discipline until the 20th century (Roughly late 1940's
and early 1950's)
• Hebb's 1949 publication, The Organization of Behavior, played a pivotal role in the emergence of
the discipline of biopsychology
• Hebb used many techniques together including experiments on people and lab animals, clinical
studies and logical arguments derived from careful observation
What is the relationship between biopsychology and the other disciplines of Neuroscience?
• Biopsychologists mix Neuroscience and behavioural science to perform bio-behavioural research.
They have a behavioural orientation and knowledge of behavioural research methods.
• Interdisciplinary field of research which incorporates many aspects of Neuroscience and other
scientific disciplines with behavioural research.
What types of research characterize the biopsychological approach?
Research in biopsychology can vary on 3 dimensions:
o Human and non-human subjects used
o Experimental or non-experimental research method used
o Pure or applied
• Human and Non-Human Subjects
• Rats are the most commonly used test animal, but mice, cats, dogs and others are commonly used
• Some advantages of using humans include
o Humans can follow instructions
o Humans can report on their subjective experiences
o Humans are often cheaper than animals
o Humans do not require housing, feeding or cleaning like animals do
o Humans have human brains
• Scientists can learn about the human brain by studying other animals because of the evolutionary
nature of the brain.
• The brains of humans differ from other animals primarily in size and the extent of cortical
development. Most differences are quantitative in nature, not qualitative in nature, there for animal
brains can tell us a lot about our own brains.
• Advantages of using non-human subjects in research
o The brains and behaviour of non-humans are significantly simpler than humans (The study of
non-humans is more likely to yield conclusions about fundamental brain-behaviour interactions)
o Conclusions can be made about behaviour based on the comparisons made between species. (Ie.
How does an animal with a cerebral cortex behave compared to an animal that naturally does
not have a cerebral cortex?)
o It is possible to conduct research with animals that is not possible to conduct on humans for
Experiments and Non-Experiments
• Experiments are used to study causation
• Experiments are able to explain the cause of phenomena by ruling out the influence of potential confounding variables
• For ethical and practical reasons, not all phenomena can be explored using experimental methods.
Some commonly used non-experimental designs are the quasi-experimental research design and
• Quasi-experimental studies examine groups of people who have been naturally exposed to the
conditions of interest. Quasi-experimental studies appear experimental, but lack the critical quality
of random assignment.
• Quasi-experimental studies are always confounded by extraneous variables that the researcher is
unable to control for due to ethical or practical concerns.
• Case studies focus on a single individual or small group of individuals, often with some extreme or
• Case studies give very detailed and complete information, but do not generalize well too large
populations due to their extremely small 'sample size.
Pure andApplied Research
• The difference between pure and applied research lies in the motivation of the researcher, rather
than the methods or the outcome.
• Pure research is conducted solely for the purpose of gaining new knowledge.
• Applied research