Psych described as the scientific study of behaviour and mental processes.
AB requires research at all levels of behaviour (bio behaviours, internal events, and observable behaviours). The
National Institutes of Health (NIH) emphasizes the critical importance of understanding health and disease by
conducting research at every level- from a single cell to society. Translational Research focuses on communication
between basic science and applied clinical research.
Ethics and Responsibility
Core principle that research must be conducted in an ethical manner.
1. Respect for persons- participants must be capable of making decisions about themselves, otherwise
parent/guardian must give consent.
2. Principle of Beneficence – secure participants well being – do no harm and maximize possible benefits and
minimize possible harm.
3. Justice- fairness in distribution or what is deserved.
Must ensure all understand the informed consent document and clarify that participation is voluntary. Must consider
foreseeable risks and benefits of participating in the project. Must also ensure selection process was fair- an
institutional review board (IRB), also known as the independent ethics committee (IEC) or ethical review board (ERB)
must review and approve all research conducted on humans.
Research in AB at the Cellular Level
2.1 Understand how research in psych ranges from the cellular to the population level.
Two main parts of Nervous System:
Central Nervous System- brain and spinal cord. Brain contains over 100 Billion nerve cells/neurons, which each
extend along distinct and specific pathways, creating a complex but ordered web of neural circuitry. Neurons are
composed of the soma/cell body, which contains the nucleus. Dendrites branch out from the soma and receive
information from other neurons. The axon is a fibre through which a cell transports information to another cell. Axon
terminals are the branched features at the end of the axon that form synapses, or points of communication with
dendrites or cell bodies of other neurons.
The brain stem is the oldest part of the brain; it controls most of the fundamental biological functions associated with
living such as breathing. At the base is the hindbrain, consisting of the medulla, pons, and cerebellum. They
regulate breathing, heartbeat, and motor control: activities that are required for life that occur automatically.
Lesion - an area of damage or abnormality. E.g. a lesion in the cerebellum can cause disorders of fine movement,
balance, and motor learning.
The midbrain is a coordinating centre that brings together sensory information with movement, and it also houses the
Recticular Activating System, which regulates our sleep and arousal systems.
Thalamus directs nerve signals that carry sensory information to the cortex. The Hypothalamus’ main function is
homeostasis, which is the regulation of bodily functions such as blood pressure, body temperature, fluid and
electrolyte balance, and body weight.
Forebrain contains the limbic system, which includes the amygdale, the cingulate gyrus, and the hippocampus. It
deals mostly with emotions and impulses – the experience of emotion, the regulation of emotional expression, and the
basic biological drives such as aggression, sex, and appetite. The hippocampus also has a role in memory formation
and has been linked with memory deficits that are characteristic of Alzheimer’s disease. The basal ganglia (base of
forebrain) inhibits movement; diseases that affect it are marked by abnormal movements; parkinson’s disease (rigidity
and tremor), Bradykinesia (slow Movements), and Huntington’s disease (uncontrollable dance like movements of the
face and limbs). Cerebral Cortex, the largest part of the brain, contains structures that make us uniquely human: reasoning, abstract
thought, perception of time, and creativity. Left hemisphere is primarily responsible for language and cognitive
functions and tends to process info in parts, sequentially, and uses both language and symbols (incl. numbers). Right
hemisphere processes the world more holistically, in a spatial context (rel. Of an obj to another), and is more
associated with creativity, imagery, and intuition. Both sides communicate considerably and often compensate via
taking over functioning of the damaged area.
Each hemisphere has four lobes: temporal, parietal, occipital, and frontal. Temporal- processing and understanding
audiovisual info and also names/labels object and plays a role in verbal memory. Parietal-integrates sensory info from
various sources and also plays a role in visuospatial processing. Occipital- (at back of skull)- centre of visual
processing. Frontal- seat of reasoning and plays a critical role in impulse control, judgement, language, memory,
motor functioning, problem solving, and sexual and social behaviour; instrumental in planning, coordinating, inhibiting,
and executing behaviour. The corpus callosum connects the two sides and facilitates communication. Severed corpus
callosum can lead to an inability to integrate certain brain functions. (see p 44).
PNS – subdivided into:
The sensory-somatic nervous system – consists of cranial nerves which control sensation and muscle
The autonomatic nervous system – consists of the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems.
a. SNS- controls involuntary movements; activates the body, creating a state of physical readiness –
stimulates heartbeat, raises blood pressure, dilates the pupils, diverts blood away from skin and inner organs
to the skeletal muscles, brain, and heart, and inhibits digestion and peristalsis in the gastrointestinal tract,
creating a state of arousal that could indicate the presence of stress or anxiety.
b. Parasympathic nervous system returns the body functions to resting levels after the SNS has activated
Endocrine system – regulates bodily functions but uses hormones rather than nerve impulses to do so. The
endocrine glands produce hormones, which are chemical messengers released directly into the bloodstream and act
The pituitary gland, located at the base of the brain is known as the “master gland”- controls many endocrine
functions (Menstration, pregnancy, birth, and lactation. They hypothalamus regulates the pituitary gland. The adrenal
glands (kidney) release adrenaline in response to stressors (fright, anger, caffeine, or low blood sugar). Thyroid
hormones regulate metabolism including body temperature and weight. Pancreas secrets insulin and glucagon to
regulate blood sugar level.
Neurohormones and Neurotransmitters
Communication in the nervous system is both electrical and chemical. Neurons use chemicals called
neurotransmitters to relay electrical signals from one neuron to the next. When the signal reaches the axon terminal,
the neurotransmitters are released. They travel between the synapse (space) and land on the surface of the
neighbouring neuron, at which point they trigger the second neuron to “fire”, releasing the electrical impulse.
2.2 Recognize new techniques used to study abnormal psychology at the cellular or neuroanatomical level.
Early info about brain functions and structures/abilities came from accident victims or survivors of surgery – could
understand what functions were lost if a certain part of the brain was damaged or removed.
Recent info from scientific advances in neuroimaging technology, which takes pictures of the brain. Tests such as
CT/CAT (Computerized Axial Tomography) scans and MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) provided static
images, which clinicians can use to detect lesions in the brain. CAT scan- patient injected with radioactive dye and
specialised X-ray equipments photographs the brain from different angles- get a cross-sectional image. MRI uses
radiofrequency waves and a strong magnetic field to provide highly detailed pictures of the brain. CAT and MRI
explore neuroanatomy (brain structure).
Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scan creates images based on the detection of radiation from the emission of
positrons. Enables scientists to trace neurotransmitters pathways in the brain and from these data to determine which
brain structures are involved in specific aspects of human behaviour. Functional MRI (fMRI) identifies increases in blood flow that are associated with increases in neural activity in various parts of the brain- can map brain anatomy
and function- can isolate the brain activity in response to an event or stimulus.
2.3 Understand the differences between family, twin, and adoption studies and molecular genetics research and the
strengths and limitations of both approaches.
Behavioural Genetics approaches include family, twin, and adoption studies and allow critical glimpses into whether
certain behavioural traits or mental disorders run in families and the extent to which these patterns are due to genetics
(are heritable) or environment. Genetic loci (specific places on specific chromosomes) are associated with many
complex traits. Single genes rarely cause behavioural traits and mental disorders- research shows many genes and
environmental factors that exert small to moderate effects influence most behavioural traits (complex traits) and
The “building block of life: is deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA)- the collection of DNA that exists in humans is known at
the human genome. 20-25K Genomes in a person. Humans: genes are contained on 23 pairs of chromosomes (22
somatic (bodily) and 1 sex, either XX (F) or XY (M). The mother always contributes an X; father X or Y. Genes can
exist in different forms or alleles, and specific allels create variations in species (Height, eye colour, hair colour,
personality, disease risk).
Genetic Laws of Heredity
1. Law of segregation – an indiv receives one of two elements from each parents. One could be dominant
(trait will be expressed in the offspring) or recessive (genetically present but usually not expressed). If a child
receives two recessive elements, then the recessive trait is expressed. Eye colour: brown is dom and blue is
rec...child with blue inherited two recessive.
2. Law of Independent Assortment- Alleles (variations) of one gene assort independently from alleles of
other genes. Eg genes for eye colour and height assort independently.
Family, Twin, and Adoption
Behavioural genetics refers to the study of the relationship between genetics and environmental in determining
individual differences in behaviour.
Familial Aggregation studies det wether the family members of someone with a particular disorder (called a
proband) are more likely to have that disorder than are family members of ppl without the disorder. If disorder
more commonly found in families- familial/aggregate in families.
a. Family History- info from one+ members to provide info about others.
b. Family Study- direct interviews with each consenting family member. (more reliable due to interviews)
Det whether symptoms run in families is important to det whether genes are the reason, but environmental
experiences, cultural contexts, and families can have an influence on behaviour. Therefore the observed
familial aggregation could be a result of either genetic or env or both. Large families can help det the extent to
which genes or env contribute to the disorder/trait.
The relative contributions of genetic or environmental factors can best be det by adoption and twin study
Genetically related indivs live in separate families, and do no share a common family env. Similariteis between
bio parents and children deemed to be genetic contribution to trait, whereas similarities between adoptive
parents and child deemed to be environmental contribution. Only hold true when placement of adoptive child
is no selective- not similar wrt culture and religious traditions.
Bias- placement is not always random – families similar in race, religion, and ses. International adoption
preadoptive care in orphanages and lack of early attachment experiences can lead to serious developmental
consequences that hamper the interp of adoption studies. Twin Studies
Autism and Schizophrenia are now known to have genetic components and not solely from environmental
trauma or parental deficits.
Twin studies examine the sims and diffs between monozygyotic (MZ, or identical) and dizygotic (DZ, or
fraternal) twin pairs to identify genetic or environmental contributions to psych disorders. MZ, who share all of
their genes allow examination of the role of environmental influences. DZ share half of genes on average,
behavioural diffs between DZ twins can result from genetic and/or environmental effects.
Determines which of the 20,000-25,000 genes are related to the presence of the disorder.
Three primary methods:
1. Genomewide Linkage Analyses – allows researchers to narrow the search for genes from the
entire genome to specific areas on specific chromosomes. Large families with certain disorder- or pairs
2. Candidate Gene Association Studies – compare specific genes in a large group of indivs who
have specific trait/disorder(cases) with a well-matched group who do not have it(controls). Choose one or
several genes in advance based on some knowledge of the bio of the trait/function of the gene. Often
studies of other groups fail to replicate the findings.
3. Genomewide Association Studies (GWAS) – also uses large samples of cases and well-matched
controls. Hundreds of thousands of possible genetic variations scattered across the genome are tested
for association in the same study – allows it to yield relatively unbiased search of the genome that can
discover new genetic associations.
Epigeneitcs – focuses on heritable changes in the expression of genes, which are not caused by changes in
actual DNA sequence but rather by environmental exposures (can react and adapt to rapidly changing
environment- some genes are activated and other silenced.) These changes may actually be passed down to
Research in Abnormal Psychology at the Individual Level
Helps identify general principles about AB. Clinical psych is gen directed toward the indiv. Valuable info can be learned
from intensive study of indiv ppl, families, or small groups of ppl who can be considered a single unit. Complements
large group-based studies by allowing for richer examination of details and the development of hypotheses and
theories that can be later tested in group designs.
Two main methods of study:
2.4 Describe the strengths and limitations of case studies and single-case designs.
1. The Case Study
A comprehensive description of an individual/group of indivs using clinical data typically drawn from the clinician’s
practical experience. Provides a detailed narrative of AB and/or its treatment. Sometimes quantitative measurement
accompanied – but can’t draw conclusions wrt cause of AB. Nothing is manipulated by observer- recount of indiv’s
Gain significant background material and detailed clinical information to illustrate the complexity of the case. Allows
the examination of rare phenomenon that otherwise could not be studied at group level due to inadequate num of
cases found. Can also provide hypotheses for group studies. Intensive CS allow practitioners to be involved in the
research- detailed case notes provide a scholarly report that informs others, illustrating how the scientist-practitioner
model operated in the practice and study of AB. Cs also illustrate important clinical issues that are no readily apparent
in a group-based report – can be useful for clinicians who seek to use empirically supported treatments.
Variations and Limitations of Case Studies
Some simply provide case descriptions, others illustrate clinical points using standardized measures of behaviours or
symptoms, allowing comparisons with other larger studies.
Scientific rigorous case report also attempt to standardize (keep consistent) they types of assessments and treatment
procedure reported. This allows others to replicate the same findings and also makes it possible to combine the
results from a small group of patients into a single report. Can also compare symptoms or the amount of change over
time easier than what might be observed in studies of large groups of patients.
However, they do not allow firm conclusions to be formed wrt the cause(s) of symptoms or change following treatment.
To draw conclusions about the causes of symptoms or change, an experimental control condition is needed.
Controlled scientific exps compare at least 2 groups that differ only wrt the variable being tested (exp var). Exp group- var present, control- var absent. Case Studies do not include control groups and thus cannot help us draw conclusions
2. Single-Case Designs
Experimental studies conducted at the indiv level. Uses quatitative measurement and incorporates control
conditions that allow cleaer demonstration of causal relationships in a single indiv.
They control for alternative hypotheses (ie something other than the treatment caused the change), and can lead
to causal inferences. Require fewer resources and allow more detailed attention to indiv patterns of change. Each
indiv is a complete experiement at various times participating in bothe the experiement and the comparison (or
control) condition. The goal is to examine whether behaviour changes systematica