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Human Behavior and Physiological Response

John L. Andreassi

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eBook - ePub


Human Behavior and Physiological Response

John L. Andreassi

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About This Book

As new technology fuels the rapid growth of research in psychophysiology, it is essential that those new to the field receive a comprehensive introduction. Psychophysiology: Human Behavior and Physiological Response provides students with elementary information regarding the anatomy and physiology of various body systems, recording techniques, integrative reviews of literature, and concepts in the field. Highly accessible, this book fills a gap between edited handbooks that are often difficult for beginners, and journal articles that may also be a challenge to digest.In this new edition, John L. Andreassi incorporates:
*a glossary of terms at the end of each chapter to help students learn definitions of novel terms introduced throughout the book;
*a new chapter focusing on the proliferation of neuroimaging studies, including positron emission tomography (PET) and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI); and
*content changes in all chapters to cover new areas of research, as well as to update findings in traditional topics of interest.Upper level undergraduate and beginning graduate students in psychophysiology, biological psychology, cognitive neuroscience, and physiological psychology will benefit immensely from this important text, just as professionals new to psychophysiology will find this book exceptionally useful in their work.

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Introduction to Psychophysiology


This book takes you on a conceptual and empirical journey into the world of psychophysiology. Psychological scientists know that there is a constant interplay between concepts in a field of knowledge and empirical or experimental data. The concepts suggest experimental studies, and the empirical data either support or lead to modifications of existing conceptual or theoretical ideas. This is an aspect of psychological science that makes it dynamic and exciting. The approach in this book is to introduce relevant concepts at the outset of each chapter to provide a framework for the work cited. The aim of this approach is to alert students early regarding the conceptual foundations of psychophysiology. In the first edition of this book, I wrote that “the field of psychophysiology is concerned with the measurement of physiological responses as they relate to behavior.” The word behavior is used now, as then, in the broadest sense to include such diverse activities as sleep, problem solving, reactions to stress, learning, memory, information processing, perception, or, in short, any of the activities that psychologists are inclined to study. This characterization of the field requires some clarification. You, the reader, may ask how psychophysiology differs from the discipline traditionally known as physiological psychology; the answer is that it is mainly in the approach and subject matter of these areas, because the goal of understanding the physiology of behavior is the same.
Distinctions have been made between psychophysiology and physiological psychology in terms of how dependent and independent variables are used (Lykken, 1984; J.A.Stern, 1964). The dependent variables refer to what is actually being measured in a research project, and the independent variable is the aspect being manipulated. Stern and Lykken said that in psychophysiology, the dependent variables are physiological (e.g., heart rate) and the independent variables are psychological (e.g., problem solving). However, in physiological physiology the dependent variables are mainly psychological (learning, or perceptual accuracy, as examples), whereas independent variables are physiological (e.g., brain stimulation, or removal of brain tissue). This distinction in terms of dependent and independent variables is useful, but not entirely satisfactory to Furedy (1983), who argued that this approach does not cover the example of a physiological psychologist who records and studies changes in a single neuron while psychological stimuli are manipulated. According to Furedy’s definition, “Psychophysiology is the study of psychological processes in the intact organism as a whole by means of unobtrusively measured physiological processes” (p. 13). He emphasized that a measurement made unobtrusively, as with surface electrodes, results in a more accurate picture of the behaving organism. Mangina (1983) objected to Furedy’s use of the term “intact organism” because this would exclude the study of brain-damaged, mentally retarded, or drug-influenced persons, and patients suffering from various psychophysiological disorders. Mangina defined psychophysiology as “the science which studies the physiology of psychic functions through the brain-body-interrelationships of the living organism in conjunction with the environment” (p. 22).
At this point, I propose a definition that attempts to integrate those previously offered: Psychophysiology is the study of relations between psychological manipulations and resulting physiological responses, measured in the living organism, to promote understanding of the relation between mental and bodily processes. I believe this definition can provide a useful starting point.
However, it is also useful to examine a literal definition of psychophysiology. We can begin by examining the word psychology, which, when broken down, includes “ology” or “study of” and “psych” from the Greek word “psyche,” which means “soul” or “mental.” For the early Greeks, such as Plato, psychology was the study of soul-body interactions. Plato, and later philosophers and scientists, became engrossed in the mind-body problem. The word physiology means study of body function. Thus, combining the words psychology and physiology yields “psychophysiology,” whose literal definition would be the study of interactions between bodily and mental processes. This literal definition does give a clue to the types of studies carried out by psychologists, for example, the examination of changes in the electroencephalogram (EEG) during the performance of mental arithmetic or reciting a list of numbers from memory. We would be remiss if we did not mention that anatomy, or structure, of body areas enters in as a consideration because of the importance of anatomy to physiological function. This is why, in discussing different physiological systems in the chapters that follow, there is a brief description of anatomy of structures such as the brain, and heart and blood vessels.


A number of activities are as important to the field of psychophysiology as they are to other life sciences. These include conducting animal research to allow fuller understanding of basic physiological mechanisms, developing electronic instrumentation to enable increasingly sophisticated measurements, and testing hypotheses and concepts that allow researchers to ask questions and obtain answers in the formulation of a body of knowledge.
Psychological processes studied in psychophysiology range from emotional responses, as in fear and anger, to cognitive activities, such as decision making, information processing and problem solving. The reader will find that, in this text, the word behavior is used broadly to encompass a variety of human activities including: learning, problem solving, sensing, perceiving, attending, sleeping, and emotional response. The physiological responses include those recorded from, among others, the brain, heart, muscles, skin, and eyes. Most of the measures taken in psychophysiology can be obtained from surface areas of the body and are, therefore, considered to be “noninvasive.” Some of the newer techniques involve what has been termed neuroimaging. These include positron emission tomography (PET), functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), and magnetoencephalography (MEG) (Kutas & Federmeier, 1998). The fMRI and MEG are noninvasive, but PET is minimally invasive since it involves injecting a radioactive substance into the bloodstream. All of these techniques, along with the usually invasive approaches of traditional physiological psychology, are aimed at learning more about the physiological substrates of behavior and provide measures of brain structure and function. Interest in physiological substrates of behavior has existed for centuries. In fact, this area of investigation is the modern version of what early philosophers, physicians, and scientists tussled with as the “mind-body problem.” The questions revolved around the locus of those mental or spiritual events, including thoughts and feelings, that could not be easily labeled as physical activities.
There are exceptions to the noninvasive approach that characterizes most of psychophysiology. For example, some psychophysiologists have recorded directly from brain tissue of patients while they were engaged in cognitive tasks. As I stated earlier, however, most studies in this area concern the behaving, intact organism, using surface recordings or other noninvasive techniques. Thus, in psychophysiology, we are able to study heart rate changes that occur in response to unexpected stimuli, or brain activity patterns recorded while an individual listens to music. Speed of response and related muscle activity are also topics of study, as well as eye movement patterns when a person searches for a specific target among other visual stimuli, and changes in electrical activity of the skin surface with emotion-provoking conditions.
An underlying premise in the conduct of these studies is that the information obtained will enable us to better understand the relations and interactions between physiology and behavior. Perhaps we will someday come closer to solving the mind-body problem. As Kutas and Federmeier (1998) point out, modern science recognizes the brain as the most direct substrate for the behaviors that psychophysiologists study. However, measures of heart, muscle, and other bodily activities also aid in our understanding and development of conceptualizations regarding physiology-behavior relationships, an endeavor examined in chapter 2 of this book. At this point, it would be instructive to take a brief look at the historical development of psychophysiology.


The rationale for the psychophysiological approach stems from a desire to know more about physiological processes occurring in the organism while that organism is engaged in a variety of psychological activities; and this is possible only through very careful observation or the use of specialized instruments. Just as a blood sample tells a physician something about the physical condition of an apparently healthy patient, a sampling of heart rate tells the psychophysiologist something about the emotional state of an outwardly calm individual. It is the point of view here that behavior is the result of ongoing mental processes. Thus, observed behavior is not the equivalent of mental activities, because these activities are not always translated into motor acts. However, these mental activities themselves, although not directly observable, are behaviors.
How did a desire to know more about physiological correlates of behavior develop? Records of when humans first asked about psychophysiological relationships do not exist. It is reasonable to assume that very early humans wondered about the source of our thoughts and other mental activities. There is evidence that Stone Age cavepeople may have associated headaches, distressing thoughts, or evil spirits with the inside of the head, because skulls containing holes (trephined) have been found among the remains of cave dwellers (Carson, Butcher, & Coleman, 1988). One might imagine the following scene, taking place some 250,000 years ago inside a cave illuminated by a fire: Some unfortunate caveperson, probably one who had continuous head pains or who was tormented by strange voices, is being held down by several others while an early “neurosurgeon” carefully chips away bits of skin and bone with stone tools to form an opening in the skull. Scientists surmise that this trephining too...

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