The Podcast World Podcast: Episode 4- What is Biological Psychology and Neuroplasticity?


Hello everyone, today’s podcast episode/ blog post will be on the biological psychology and neuroplasticity.


Now we're going to be moving away from cognitive psychology and onto biological psychology. So biological psychology focuses on how biology like evolution, our brains and our genetics can impact our behaviour. I do like biological psychology simply because it is quite factual and it, and it's supported by a lot of hard science.


For some people, this is the stronger and more of a proper area of psychology. This I disagree with, as I think all areas of psychology are that need and are important because they're supported by facts. The biological psychology is important and it will star in these next few episodes.


We’re going to start with one of my favourite areas of biological psychology. Which is neuroplasticity. This, I honestly find fascinating because I love the idea that our brains can change because of the environment. I think it's brilliant because I believe it's just so clever that our brains can change just like that, simply because of what we need.

Let’s move onto the theory first.


Well, I've mentioned neuroplasticity quite a few times now on the podcast, but what the hell is it?


Neuroplasticity is the ability for our brains to change/remap itself in sponsor of environmental demands.


So now I've got two great examples here for you.


I'm completely going to butcher this name, so I apologize. Merzenich (1984).


The researchers got eight adult owl monkeys, and then he placed electrodes into their brains, and then he stimulated each digit on the finger and then what he did was he mapped these areas of the brain just so he knew what areas differed in terms of their sizes.

Furthermore, the researchers cut off the 3rd digit of the monkey’s hand.


I think unethical, but this was the 80s. If you do psychology, you know what I mean. Anyway this was before the ethical guidelines came out, it was the wild west in psychology and you could do whatever you want to participants. Interesting. But dangerous times, if you were a participant.


Um, if you were a researcher, it was a much more fun time. You could do whatever you want. It wasn't right, but sadly, some important information did come from that time.


But as an ethical episode might be something that you think might be sensitive in the future.

Anyway, but after he like chopped off the third digit, after 62 days, the researchers decided to remap the monkey’s brain just to see if there were any changes in the monkey’s brain and what happened was that the brain areas that controlled the first and the fifth digit.


The size of those brain areas that did not change.


However, the size of the brain areas that controlled the 2nd and 4th digit increased because the brain area that controls the third digit wasn't being used, and the second and fourth grew into this used space where the 3rd digit used to be located.


In conclusion, it takes 62 days for the brain of an adult owl money to remap itself.


This supports the idea of neuroplasticity because this effectively demonstrates how a brain has the ability to remap and change itself as a result of the environmental demand, because as demonstrated in this stud- because the cut off finger (the environmental demand) caused the brian to remap itself.


This supports the idea of neuroplasticity because this effectively demonstrates how a brain has the ability to remap and change itself as a result of the environmental demand, because as demonstrated in this stud- because the cut off finger (the environmental demand) caused the brain to remap itself.


Critical thinking:

This is an effective study as it did effectively measured how the brain can remap itself because of environmental demands.


However, there are ethical concerns because was it right to use these monkeys that were, that are living things and cut off their fingers, which would have put them through pain?


Is it right to experiment upon them?


I don't know. But then I have no doubt. I don't think the ethical guidelines were out, I don't think were out in 1984.


Even now, you probably would have to prove that this is a good use of animals.


So I don't know, it does raise ethical questions like, is this wrong?


However, I might actually do a podcast episode on ethics in psychology. Now another research study that I do like, this is actually one of my favourites is a Draganski (2004), and this research is human-based. And this I do find this quite fascinating.


Draganski (2004)

So the whole point of this research study was that to see if the brain can change according to environmental demands and then the researchers got the volunteers and split them into two groups: the jugglers and non-jugglers, and it’s important to note that in terms of juggling everyone’s brains would have been the same or similar as no one had any experience of juggling.


At the beginning they all had a brain scan then jugglers practised a basic juggling routine for three months before another brain scan.


Before everyone has another brain scan, including the non-jugglers.


Then the jugglers didn’t practice juggling for three months.


The results showed that for the first brain scan there were no changes in the brains between the jugglers or non-jugglers.


For the second brain scan, the jugglers showed increased grey matter; which is the neurons in the brain; in certain areas of the brain.


For the 3rd brain scan, the grey matter decreased for the jugglers but not as much as shown in the 1st scan.


Therefore, this led the researchers to conclude that as you learn a basic skill you brain matter increases.


However, if you fail to learn that skill, then your brain shrinks back. Though, not as much as before though.


This study I find quite impressive because it does demonstrate with quite so-real results that the brain does constantly change.


Critically thinking:

The study is good, as I've mentioned because it does produce very hard to refute evidence for neuroplasticity.


However, something that could be better is that the scenario is not very ecologically valid, so it's debatable if the brain does change as much based on these results for a more useful skill. Like learning how to drive because personally, I believe that the brain obviously does.

However, because this study look to a more, not invalid, but less everyday example, we don't know based on these finding, so we could infer that that learning to drive causes changes in the brain but we can't say with a hundred per cent certainty.


So that's something to think about in the future.


Conclusion:

So bringing everything together, neuroplasticity is the ability for the brain via map itself.

Merzenich (1984) showed us that it took 62 days for an adult owl monkey’s brain to remap itself.


Draganski (2004) showed us how the brain can remap itself and grow in respond to an environmental demand, but then the brain areas shrink back if you don't practice the new skill.


And that brings us to the end of the episode.


So I hope that you've enjoyed the show and have a good week.


Here’s the link to the Facebook page that I mentioned in the News Section:

The Truth About Mental Health


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Have a great week everyone.

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