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The Mind-Body Phenomenon explained

Updated: Jan 6, 2021

Everyday Evidence of Biological Psychology - The mind-body phenomenon

Biological psychology, also known as physiological psychology or behavioral neuroscience, studies the relationship between the body and the mind. It dates back as far as Aristotle who determined “that the two exist as aspects of the same entity, the mind being merely one of the body’s functions [Encyclopedia Britannica].” Biological psychology is the study of the physiological bases of behavior primarily involving the relationship between psychological processes and the underlying physiological events. Biological Psychology focuses on the function of the brain and the rest of nervous system in basic human activities (ie; learning, thinking, feeling, perceiving, sensing) by studying the reaction of the nervous system to internal and external stimuli. Some common concepts of biological psychology include the flight or fight response, memory loss, and involuntary reflexes.

Fight or Flight

Picture this: Shopping in your local department store, there is aisle after aisle of ‘sale’ clothing and you can’t help but feel the need to check every single hanger for something in your size and budget. Behind you, you are dragging your, not so thrilled with the clearance section, 3-year-old. Together you have made your way down a few aisles when you have spotted the perfect top for your meeting next week.

While doing the mental math for quality vs cost and comparing that to your actual bank account you realize the whining, that had been following you sense you walked into the store, has disappeared.

You turn around quickly to see you are standing there alone. Que your amygdala, the almond-shaped part of your brain that controls our reactions to aggression and fear. Your child is missing and your amygdala is admitting neurotransmitters to the sympathetic division of the autonomic nervous system to prepare you for a rapid response. Your heart rate increases, your breathing accelerates, your mouth has become dry. The halting of digestion has made an uncomfortable feeling in your stomach. Your pupils have dilated to increase your field of vision and that’s when you see it, a foot. Your little boy has been hiding inside a circular display of jeans this whole time and for all intensive purposes, has no idea why his mother looks like she is ready to take on a rabid raccoon. After an overzealous hug your body begins to calm. Your heart rate slows along with your breathing and homeostasis is returning thanks to the parasympathetic division of the autonomic nervous system. Meanwhile the amygdala is storing this experience away in your brain so next time your child disappears in the department store, because he will, you will check inside the racks before panicking.

Memory Loss and the Motor Cortex

At 55 my father suffered a stroke whose affects he would suffer through for the next 8 weeks before succumbing to them. The stroke effected his ability to remember short term-memories and caused a blur in his concept of time. The hippocampus, two horn shaped parts of the brain that curve back from the amygdala, control the storing of information in long-term memory. Although the situation was a sad one, the damaged to his memory meant that some days when I visited the hospital, I was meeting the teenage version of my father. That is an experience only a few get to have and it was both enlightening, humbling and hilarious. For as long as I had known my father, he was not a man with a social filter, as it turns out – he never had been. The stroke also had a negative affect on his motor cortex, particular the location that controls swallowing. The motor cortex sends signals to the cerebellum and spinal cord to execute movements. Despite attempts at weaning him off of the feeding tube he was never able to regain control of that motion. The motor cortex dedicates a fair-sized portion to the tongue, jaw, teeth, gums and lips, as well as a designated area for controlling swallowing. When these areas are severely damaged even our brains neuroplasticity can not repair them.

Blushing Reflex

I, admittedly, am a shy individual and often find myself blushing at even the smallest embarrassments. Blushing is a reflex or an involuntary, almost instantaneous, response to a stimulus. A reflex is sometimes referred to as a ‘knee jerk reaction’. This term is specifically representing the involuntary kicking motion your leg makes when a doctor taps a spot on your knee with a small hammer. Other examples of reflexes are coughing, sneezing, catching a falling object, or pulling your hand away from something hot. Reflexes are caused when sensory information is important enough to cause a reaction from the interneurons in the spinal cord that send a message back through the motor neurons without relaying the information to the brain. Essentially, my cheeks are getting hot before my brain has finished processing the heat of the comment.

Biological psychology is a part of everyday life in more ways than we can understand. It plays a role in our brains, bodies and behavior. As science continues development we learn more about the body-mind phenomena.


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