Physiological Psychology

Physiological psychology is a branch of psychology concerned with the biochemical, structural, and physiological causes of behavior. Many people consider physiological psychology a branch of behavioral neuroscience, and the term is often used interchangeably with psychophysiology and biological psychology. Depending on the academic setting, physiological psychology material may be integrated into courses for neuroscience or neuropsychology since there is a large amount of overlap between disciplines, particularly in advanced courses.

A comprehensive introduction to physiological psychology will usually cover experimental methodology used in research, identification of various regions in the brain and nervous system along with their functions, neurotransmitters, neuropharmacology, the neuroendocrine system, psychopathology and neuropsychology, learning, cognition, sensation and perception, sleep, hunger and thirst, sex and motivation, genetics, research using split-brain patients and animal subjects, future directions of research, and the application of physiological psychology to other fields of study.

One of the most popular textbooks used in physiological psychology courses is Biological Psychology by James W. Kalat. This text is one of the most highly regarded books on the market because of its comprehensive and user-friendly approach to this difficult subject matter. It is interesting, accurate, and not overly technical which appeals to undergraduate curriculums which typically offer limited courses in this emphasis area. Dr. Kalat also provides users with CD-ROM and internet tools to facilitate learning beyond the classroom.

Additionally, Physiology of Behavior by Neil R. Carlson and Brain & Behavior: An Introduction to Biological Psychology by Bob L. Garrett are also popular texts. Both texts are often used in undergraduate coursework, however the latter is considered to be more technical than other physiological texts available. Cognitive Neuroscience by Marie T. Banich and Rebecca J. Compton is a popular text for advanced undergraduates or graduate physiological psychology classes. The in-depth review of case studies, incorporation of clinical aspects of physiological psychology and related areas, and information on disorders associated with brain damage make the text an excellent cornerstone for both clinical and experimental pursuits in the field.

Physiological psychology notes are imperative to gaining an understanding of the diverse range of material covered in the course. Aside from well-written and comprehensive lecture notes, taking the time to formulate notes based on the text and supplemental reading material can be vital for reinforcing material, as well as clarifying concepts that seem vague. Most texts used for physiological psychology have some type of additional study materials. Definitions in the glossary, questions at the end of a chapter or section, online quizzes, diagrams, and videos provided by the author or course instructor can be extremely useful. Many authors and instructors adopt an applied approach by providing real-world scenarios and applications that make unobservable processes and theories tangible to students.

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