This article will answer the question of why behavioural neuroscience is important. It will also elaborate on what is neuroscience, what is behavioural neuroscience, and the techniques behavioural neuroscientists use to study the brain. The article will also elaborate on what neuropsychology is. In the end, the article will answer some frequently asked questions.
Why is Behavioural Neuroscience Important?
Behavioural neuroscience helps us understand how to assess, understand, make predictions about, improve as well as control human behaviour. As a field, behavioural neuroscience enables neuroscientists with the tools to understand the array of issues that concern human behaviour.
Behavioural neuroscientists do detailed research for understanding various topics such as addiction, ageing, sleep, trauma, neurodevelopmental disorders, neurocognitive disorders, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and even immune system disorders. They aim to understand the neurobiological underpinnings of the same.
Behavioural neuroscientists use the everchanging and improving neuroscientific technology to understand the issues highlighted above. Brain imaging studies help them understand how there are physical changes in the brain under the influence of drugs, and how the brain reacts to decision-making, learning, and behavioural control.
Furthermore, they also provide feedback on the reasons behind the widespread conditions and disorders. They study what are the treatments that can be more efficient and effective for brain and nervous system disorders.
What is Neuroscience?
Traditionally, neuroscience has been considered a subdivision of biology. However, now it is considered to be an interdisciplinary science which works closely with other disciplines as well.
These disciplines include mathematics, linguistics, computer science, engineering, psychology, medicine, chemistry, and sometimes even philosophy.
Neuroscience is also known as ‘Natural science’ because it is the study of the nervous system, how it develops, what are the structures of the nervous system, and what the nervous system does.
Researchers usually think of neuroscience as being the same as neurobiology. However, this is not true. Neurobiology only looks at the biology of the nervous system.
Whereas, neuroscience refers to the entire nervous system and deals with anything to do with the nervous system. Today, neuroscientists are more involved in many fields than before. They study the cellular, functional, computational, medical, molecular, and evolutionary aspects of the nervous system.
Neuroscientists are known as medical research scientists who tend to study the nervous system. The nervous system is comprised of the brain, spinal cord and nerve cells in the body. Neuroscience is considered to be a complex field of science which includes studying molecular and developmental biology, physiology, and anatomy along with other subjects.
Neuroscientists use this knowledge to study the nervous system and understand the ways to better the functioning of the brain in terms of its effectiveness.
Since neuroscience is a diverse and large field, neuroscientists choose to focus on specialising in certain areas of study. This enables them to narrow in on the research in areas that interest them. For instance, if they choose to become a neurologist, they can work with patients who have conditions of epilepsy, strokes, and multiple sclerosis (MS).
What is Behavioural Neuroscience?
Behavioural Neuroscience helps in understanding the biological underpinning of behaviours exhibited by humans and animals. Specifically, this discipline of science aims to examine the brain’s neurotransmissions as well as how psychological events are related to biological activity.
Behavioural neuroscience is a contemporary of physiological psychology and covers many issues including molecular biological substrates of behaviour, the processes of learning and memory, motivation, emotions, and perception of sensory stimuli. It also understands the neuropsychology of an individual.
How do Behavioural Neuroscientists Study the Brain?
Behavioural neuroscientists study the brain using technologies such as MRI, fMRI, EEG, PET Scans, CT scans, etc. We highlight some of these techniques below:
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) uses magnetic and radio waves to generate high-quality pictures of the brain, especially soft tissues. The images are highly detailed.
Because you need to remain still under the MRI machine, children who have been ordered to do an MRI test may be sedated during it. MRI, however, is not the only tool to study the brain. Other tools used by neurologists to understand the brain include:
Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI)
One of the most recent forms of neuroimaging technique was discovered in the 1990s. This has relatively become the most used and dominant technique due to its lack of radiation exposure, wide availability and low invasiveness. Several neural activities in the brain lead to metabolic activities such as the oxygen supply to the local vasculature and increased blood flow to the brain.
There are several techniques that are used to detect several changes in metabolic activities that including fMRI, blood-oxygen-level-dependent (BOLD) fMRI, and perfusion fMRI.
The fMRI is an indicator of neural activity that detects the amount of blood flow in each brain region. The images are taken in the form of cross-sectional “slices” that are obtained as the magnetic field is passed across the brain. These images in the form of slices are taken at a rapid rate and are imposed on images of the brain structure. These show how brain activities change over time.
The advantage of fMRI is that it is non-invasive. The images collected via the scanner can reveal which parts of the brain are associated with which type of other tasks, this was found while studying the participant’s behaviour (e.g., while they were playing a game with another person).
The procedure beings when the research participant simply enters the machine and the scans begin. There are several advantages of the fRMIs, in recent days, is now the most commonly used method of learning about brain structure hence, many university and hospital settings, have accommodated this.
Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS)
Another approach to better understands the brain and which has been more frequently implemented to understand brain function is the Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) procedure. In this procedure, magnetic pulses are applied to the brain of a living person.
Near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS)
Near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) is a non-invasive technology that continuously monitors regional tissue oxygenation. It was originally used to assess the oxygen saturation of the brain. However, over a period of time, it has been used in the evaluation of oxygenation of tissues other than the brain.
Magnetoencephalography (MEG) is a non-invasive medical test. This test maps the function of the brain and identifies the location and the source of epileptic seizures. This test measures the magnetic fields that are produced by the brain’s electrical currents. It is also used to map the various other functions of the brain such as the centre of the sensory, motor, language and memory activities.
Positron Emission Tomography (PET)
A positron emission tomography (PET) scan is a type of imaging test that can help understand and reveal the biochemical function of your tissues and organs, as well as the metabolic activities of the brain. This test uses
a radioactive drug (tracer) and also shows both normal and abnormal metabolic activity.
This type of test also detects the abnormal metabolism of the tracer in diseases before the disease is more prominent in other tests such as computerized tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
Computed Tomography (CT)
This is a computerised x-ray imaging procedure in which a narrow beam of x-rays is aimed at a patient and quickly rotated around the body. This produces signals that are then further processed by the machine’s computer to generate cross-sectional images, or “slices.”
These are called tomographic images and give the clinician better and more detailed information than conventional x-rays. To form a three-dimensional (3D) image of the patient, these slices are collected by the machine’s computer, they are digitally “stacked” together to form a three-dimensional (3D) image of the patient. This allows the physician to identify potential tumours as well as other abnormalities at an early stage.
What is Neuropsychology?
Neuropsychologists are psychologists that specialise in understanding how behaviours interact with the brain. They understand the relationship between the brain and the behaviours people engage in. They also try to understand how disorders of the brain and the nervous system can affect the behaviour and cognitive functioning of an individual.
This article answers the question why behavioural neuroscience is important. It also elaborates on what is neuroscience, what is behavioural neuroscience, and the techniques behavioural neuroscientists use to study the brain. The article also elaborates on what neuropsychology is. In the end, the article will answer some frequently asked question.
Frequently Asked Questions: Why is Behavioural Neuroscience Important?
What is developmental neuroscience?
Developmental Neuroscience is a field that studies the development of the brain through different stages of life, and the changes that occur in the brain as a result of ageing.
What is molecular and cellular neuroscience?
Molecular and Cellular neuroscience focuses on certain molecules and cells in the brain that determine the functioning of neurons.
What is neurogenetics?
Neurogenetics studies how the genes inherited by the individual affect the brain and the body by influencing changes in the neurons.
Hashemi, R. H., Bradley, W. G., & Lisanti, C. J. (2012). MRI: the basics: The Basics. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.