Are neuroscience and biopsychology the same?

Psychology is a profession, an academic discipline, and a science that deals with the analysis and study of mental processes in human beings. When thinking about this branch of knowledge and clinical diagnosis, most people tend to turn to the figure of the psychologist and the psychiatrist, two professions well established in the global panorama of mental health.

Even so, with the advancement of science, distinctions between different branches are increasingly necessary. For example, did you know that terms such as neuropsychology, Biopsychology, neurobiology, or behavioral neurology are widely related to the world of human behavior?

That’s right, knowledge has no borders, and therefore, it’s increasingly necessary to specialize more to understand each process and engine that drives human behavior. 

In this article we are going to answer the question ‘’Are neuroscience and  biopsychology the same?’’ Here we will see what are the differences between neuroscience and biopsychology, relatively recent terms in the world of mental health.

Are neuroscience and biopsychology the same?

No, neuroscience and biopsychology are not the same. In fact, biopsychology is part of neurosciences, but its studies aim to understand human behavior by studying spices that are related to us through evolution.

Traditionally, the study of the nervous system has been carried out by researchers who worked relatively independently in different already established biomedical disciplines, such as Anatomy, Physiology, Psychiatry, Psychology, Biochemistry, or Molecular Biology, among others.

However, at the end of the fifties and the beginning of the 60s Neuroscience, or Neurobiology, emerged as a discipline of a superior nature that allowed confluence and interdisciplinarity, so that all these areas involved in the study of the brain began to work in a coordinated way, integrating its methodology, objectives and concepts.

In this way, Neuroscience arises with the aim of understanding the functioning and structure of the nervous system from different approaches, using various methodologies and techniques to approach it from a scientific perspective.

Biopsychologist were actively involved in this inclusive movement. Various organizations, the Society for Neuroscience in the United States, the EBBS and the ENA in Europe, had the participation of researchers from Biopsychology, or in its beginnings, Physiological Psychology.

What’s biopsychology?

Psychology and biology are scientific disciplines that came together long ago to find answers. The questions surrounding our behavior led many scientists to join efforts to establish correlations between organism and behavior.

Biopsychology is a branch of psychology, and therefore, its main objective is the study of behavior. Her approach has a special characteristic that betrays her name, biology. For this reason, since its inception in the 19th century it has been differentiated by the study of mental processes through the different elements and organic levels.

Several keys to human nature remain protected by a darkness that psychology tries to illuminate. On the other hand, a good part of the strength that Biopsychology has today comes from having defended a method that we now consider scientific; something that, on the contrary, other currents or perspectives did not do.

How does biopsychology explain behavior?

The behavior has an undeniable biological conditioner. Our way of proceeding and thinking, therefore, is also a product of evolution, and depending on the species or group of individuals, we can see significant differences. These differences are marked by various factors:

  1. Phylogenetic. They are the characteristic features of a species. Those evolutionary milestones, such as the acquisition of a bipedal posture in the human being. These genetic achievements are what enable an organism to be stimulated by the environment.
  2. Ontogenetics. They refer to individual characteristics, developed thanks to a genetic potential. In this factor, the ability to develop a morphological or behavioral characteristic comes into play through interaction with the environment.
  3. Epigenetics. They are the effects of the environment that modulate gene expression. For example, overeating can activate genes that promote obesity. This correlation is not so linear, food, lifestyle or exposure to stress can activate or deactivate the expression of inherited genes.

It’s important to clarify that the relationship between organism, stimulus and response, which determines behavior, would be impossible without neuronal plasticity. This characteristic is based on the ability of the nervous system to undergo physiological changes according to its interaction with the environment.

For example, the habituation effect, which is generated when reaction thresholds change in a person who is excessively exposed to a stimulus.

Biopsychology disciplines

From Biopsychology, behavior is considered as a set of visible manifestations regulated by the nervous system. These manifestations allow the organism to be actively related to the environment, determining its phylogenetic and ontogenetic evolution.

Thus, human behavior is sensitive to change in variables of very different conditions. Biopsychology has made an effort to integrate other disciplines outside psychology to understand these conditions, thus creating various branches.

Branches responsible for phylogenetic factors

These disciplines study the most distant causes of behavior. Biopsychology is not limited to the study of human behavior, but also that of other species, since we were molded under similar “rules”. The branches in charge of studying the evolutionary milestones that mark behavior are:

  • Evolutionary psychology. To understand human behavior, it’s necessary to study the evolutionary process that has led us to the place we have today.
  • Ethology. This discipline is based on the study of behavior under natural conditions, trying to establish correlations between biological factors and behavioral traits.
  • Behavioral ecology. Study the behavioral strategies that emerged from ecological and evolutionary implications.
  • Sociobiology. Discipline that studies the biological bases of the social behavior of living beings.

Ontogenetic branches of Biopsychology

The causality of the behavior according to factors closer in time would be an attribute of the genetics of the behavior. This branch specializes in studying the influence of genes.

First, it covers the genetic impact on the development of physiological organs that function as intermediaries. And finally, study the direct impact that these expressions have on behavior.

Epigenetic factors and developmental Biopsychology

Developmental Biopsychology focuses on the study of the immediate interactions of the environment on behavior. For example, this branch would be in charge of studying nerve deficiencies, the product of a poor diet in the first years of life.

This interaction is marked by immediate determinants of behavior. Thus, there are also several branches that are responsible for its study:

  • Physiological psychology. Physiological changes while a behavior develops, caused by an intervention in the nervous system.
  • Psychopharmacology. Study through drug stimulation.
  • Psychophysiology. Study the physiological variants of the nervous system, without artificial manipulation or stimulation.
  • Psychoneuroendocrinology. Study the mechanisms through which hormones intervene in the nervous system.
  • Neuropsychology. Discipline that is responsible for determining, within the clinical context, which nervous structures participate in the different mental processes.

History advances and the theoretical and experimental paradigms evolve. Biopsychology is the example of a discipline that has managed to integrate knowledge from so many others. Currently, there are many theories linked to epigenetics, confirming that many aspects of behavior remain an enigma.

So, are neuroscience and  biopsychology the same?

Biopsychology is an integral, and ever-growing part of Neuroscience. 

However, this integrative confluence has brought with it a problem of conceptual delimitation, raising some confusion between what is understood by Biopsychology and the definition of Neuroscience, which has supposed an overlap between the fundamental objectives of Neuroscience and those that are proper and characteristic of Biopsychology.

In this sense, while for authors like Kandel it’s Neuroscience that investigates the biological bases of behavior, there are other types of little clarifying names with which Biopsychologgy is identified. 

Some examples would be Behavioral Neuroscience, Biopsychology, Biological Psychology, etc., which has increased, even more if possible, the terminological and conceptual confusion.

On the other hand, in the aspects discussed so far, the uniqueness of Biopsychology can be glimpsed, compared to other psychological disciplines that don’t show a special interest in the study of the biological bases of behavior.

In addition, there are also characteristics, in the meaning of the term behavior from the Biopsychological point of view, that suppose a delimitation between Psychology and other biological and biomedical disciplines, such as Neurophysiology, Neurochemistry, Neuropharmacology, Neuroanatomy, Neuroendocrinology, etc.

In which, as can be seen, the priority objective is not necessarily to explain behavior, but to study the nervous system itself

In fact, Biopsychology, and at the time Physiological Psychology, took the contributions of Neuroanatomy, Embryology, Neurophysiology, etc., and incorporated them into its object of study to, from that moment, carry out joint work in research on the nervous system.

However, the particularity and originality of Biopsychology with respect to Neuroscience seems to be unsustainable, which again raises a delicate problem of competences.

It can be pointed out that, as can be seen from previous sections, “Neuroscience is embedded in biomedical sciences, and Biopsychology in Psychology.”

Furthermore, given the close relationship that exists between the nervous system and behavior, it may be easy to consider that any discipline whose object of study is the nervous system (neurosciences in general) also has its own objective to explain behavior.

However, the emphasis that each one places on the organ (the brain), or on the function it performs (behavior), is different. 

In this sense, neurosciences can study basic aspects of the nervous system without considering the explanation of behavior, taking an interest in the organ and encompassing all those studies that facilitate knowledge of the structure and functions of the nervous system.

For its part, Biopsychology is preferably interested in the behavioral significance of all these investigations since its specific objective is to relate behavior with the neuroanatomical, neurophysiological and neurochemical processes that underlie it, to give an adequate explanation of it in neurobiological terms

Another differential characteristic is that when approaching the study of behavior, Biopsychology uses an explanatory approach “from top to bottom”, starting from complex phenomena and trying to identify their fundamental biological components.

Neuroscience, on the contrary, by accommodating all levels of analysis from which the nervous system can be studied, uses both the “top to bottom” and the “bottom up” approaches, including among its objectives the study of elementary brain processes to discover the way in which the mind and consciousness emerge from them.

And, finally, as a consequence of the aforementioned, Neuroscience would currently constitute a broad branch of knowledge in which Biopsychology would be included, whose objectives and methodology are more delimited as it’s interested in the study of related brain functions specifically with behavior and mental processes.

FAQS: Are neuroscience and  biopsychology the same?

Is Neuropsychology and Biopsychology the same?

Neuropsychology is defined as a clinical discipline and specialty that converges between neurology and psychology. 

Neuropsychology is defined as a clinical discipline and specialty that converges between neurology (medical specialty of disorders of the nervous system) and psychology. In simpler words, it could be said that this branch studies the effects of an injury, accident or abnormality of the central nervous system on the different cognitive processes of the human being.

What is the difference between neuropsychology and neuroscience?

Neuropsychology comes from the Psychology tradition, while Neuroscience comes mainly from Biology. Neuropsychology emphasizes human cognition, disorders, etc., while in neuroscience the emphasis is much more heavily on the underlying biology.

Is psychology related to neuroscience?

Yes, they are related. In fact, they collaborate with each other. Since neuroscience studies the nervous system and the behavior that derives from it. While psychology is the study of behavior and mental processes.

Can neuroscience replace psychology?

Neither will replace the other, they are disciplines that have different approaches and need the other to carry out their studies.

What is an example of biopsychology?

Biopsychology examines topics such as how your eyes are able to inform your brain what you are reading, how the brain interprets this information, and how your brain communicates with your hand to move the mouse and click on different links
In this article we answered the question ‘’Are neuroscience and  biopsychology the same?’’ Here we’ve seen what are the differences between neuroscience and biopsychology, relatively recent terms in the world of mental health.

If you have any questions or comments please let us know!

References

Barnes, S. J., & Pinel, J. P. (2018). Biopsychology. Pearson.

Wickens, A. P. (2005). Foundations of biopsychology. Pearson Education.

Green, S. (1994). Principles of biopsychology. Psychology Press.

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