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Table of Contents
UNIT 1. Methods in Biopsychology
1. New Imaging Methods Provide a Better View into the Brain, Marcia Barinaga, Science, June 27, 1997.
The science of brain imaging is getting more sophisticated so that specific regions of brain activity can be detected almost instantaneously after the stimulus is given. More sensitive functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) machines and other novel approaches, such as near-infrared light imaging (EROS), are currently being developed.
2. How Penn Won `the Tropane War', Faye Flam, Philadelphia Inquirer, April 14, 1998.
There are times in the history of science when risks are taken by scientists in the pursuit of knowledge. A scientist in the University of Pennsylvania injected himself with a promising chemical known as tropane, a radioactive form of cocaine. Tropane binds with dopamine transporters, and is being developed to assess dopamine levels in the brain.
3. Using Magnets on Corners of the Mind, Holcomb B. Noble, New York Times, January 5, 1999.
An innovative technique to isolate specific sections of the human brain was developed by a team of neurosurgeons using superconducting magnets, which guide a catheter into the target area very precisely. A surgical tool can then be inserted inside the catheter to remove the tissue.
4. Rewiring the Brain, William J. Holstein, U.S. News & World Report, March 1, 1999.
Certain neurological diseases rely on traditional drug medication for relief of symptoms. An innovative technique used an electrode that was implanted into a specific area of the brain of a Parkinson's disease patient. It produced a dramatic reduction of tremors.
UNIT 2. The Neuron and Regions of the Brain
5. The Brain's Immune System, Wolfgang J. Streit and Carol A. Kincaid-Colton, Scientific American, November 1995.
Since the brain may be inaccessible to immune cells in the blood, it is believed to lack an immune defense mechanism. However, recent studies show that microglia may serve as its immune system.
6. Structures in Motion Seen at Synapses, Carl T. Hall, San Francisco Chronicle, January 5, 1999.
Neurons make connections with other neurons via a complex known as the synapse. The dendrites of the receiving neuron possess a unique structure called dendritic spines, and modern video imaging techniques demonstrate that these spines are not rigid structures at all.
7. The Sorcerer's Apprentice, Jonathan Leonard, Harvard Magazine, May/June 1999.
The cerebellum revisited! It has been thought that the cerebellum's major, if not sole, function is the regulation of fine, highly coordinated movement. Recent studies reveal that this highly evolved structure is significantly involved in the regulation of sophisticated cognitive functions as well as of emotions.
8. Integration of Information between the Cerebral Hemispheres, Marie T. Banich, Current Directions in Psychological Science, February 1998.
The right and left cerebral hemispheres are physically connected by a bundle of brain tissue called the corpus callosum. How the two hemispheres integrate their functions and what cognitive functions are affected by this integration are discussed in this report.
UNIT 3. Neural Development and Plasticity
9. New Nerve Cells for the Adult Brain, Gerd Kempermann and Fred H. Gage, Scientific American, May 1999.
Classic dogma in neuroscience is that neurons do not divide in the adult mammalian brain. Some very exciting discoveries during the last few years are challenging such dogma.
10. Experiment on Mice Offers Hope for Tissue Repair in Humans, Nicholas Wade, New York Times, January 22, 1999.
An amazing discovery was reported that showed the development of neuronal stem cells into mature blood cells. As presented in this essay, this finding is significant in several ways.
11. The Importance of a Well-Groomed Child, Robert M. Sapolsky, Science, September 12, 1997.
Studies in rats show that both neonatal grooming by mother rats or handling by humans have significant consequences on cognitive abilities of pups. The mechanism works by way of glucocorticoid hormone release and sensitivity to negative feedback as a result of handling.
12. Maternal Emotions May Influence Fetal Behaviors, Beth Azar, APA Monitor, December 1997.
Prenatal exposure of the human fetus to chemical substances such as alcohol and nicotine has been shown to affect physical as well as cognitive development of the fetus. Beth Azar describes how the mother's emotions or condition of stress could also affect the physiological state of the fetus as well as his or her postnatal behavior.
13. Neural Plasticity and Human Development, Charles A. Nelson, Current Directions in Psychological Science, April 1999.
Is human development determined by nature or nurture? The interaction between what our genes have determined by way of genetic expressions and the effects of environment appears to be a two-way street. Negative as well as positive consequences of experience upon development are cited.
UNIT 4. Sensation and Perception
14. The Smell of Love, F. Bryant Furlow, Psychology Today, March/April 1996.
The sense of smell is critical in the survival of most animal species. Odorants, particularly pheromones, stimulate olfactory neural pathways that affect behavior. Studies on pheromonal communication in humans suggest the effects of pheromones on human emotions and social interactions.
15. Restoring Hearing, Bruce S. McEwen, Lorne M. Mendell, and Pasko Rakic, Brain Briefings, Neuroscience Newsletter, May 1997.
Some disorders of hearing are due to serious damage to auditory cells in the inner ear. Since these cells are believed not to regenerate, the deafness could be permanent. An innovative approach of implanting an electronic device called a cochlear implant has proven to be quite effective and safe in a case studied.
16. If Things Taste Bad, `Phantoms' May Be at Work, Erica Goode, New York Times, April 13, 1999.
We have heard about the "phantom limb" phenomenon, in which an amputee could still feel pain in the lost body part. Some people complain about "phantom smell" or "phantom tastes," in which perception occurs even in the absense of the stimuli.
17. When People See a Sound and Hear a Color, Erica Goode, New York Times, February 23, 1999.
Synesthesia is a phenomenon where the sensation and perception of a stimulus do not coincide with the true characteristics of the stimulus. For example, one who encounters synesthesia could experience sounds by "seeing" colors, or may experience hearing sounds when presented with a color stimulus.
18. Communicating through Pheromones, Beth Azar, APA Monitor, January 1998.
Pheromones are special olfactory signals emitted by an individual that have biological effects inside the body of the receiver similar to hormones. A significant proportion of animal species rely on pheromones for their survival. Human studies have revealed that humans also utilize this form of communication, but not as extensively as in other species.
UNIT 5. Motivation: Hunger and Aggression
19. Aggressive Youth: Healing Biology with Relationship, J. Eric Vance, Annals of the New York Academy of Science, December 1996.
Aggressive behavior in youth can lead to serious adverse consequences, from the personal as well as legal positions. The mechanisms underlying aggressive behaviors are complex, ranging from theories of biological factors to a set of social variables.
20. Obesity and the Brain, Elizabeth Lasley, BrainWork, July/August 1998.
Dramatic scientific findings have been reported on the biological control of obesity, particularly the discovery of the hormone leptin in mice in 1994. Human studies on the role of leptin did not perfectly coincide with the mechanisms first reported in rodents.
21. What Causes Humans to Begin and End a Meal?, Paul Rozin, Sara Dow, Morris Moscovitch, and Suparna Rajaram, Psychological Science, September 1998.
Most studies that investigate the biological control of obesity do not take into account the role of memory of the previous meal as a possible confounding variable. Using a case study approach with profoundly amnesic patients as participants, this study concludes that memory of the previous meal does not have a significant role in eating.
22. Scapegoat Biology, Bettyann H. Kevles and Daniel J. Kevles, Discover, October 1997.
The incredible prevalence of violence and aggression seen and reported by the media requires everyone's attention. From the biopsychologist point of view, certain biological correlates may be involved in these behaviors. Some studies have cited the roles of the neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine in its development.
UNIT 6. Reproductive Behavior
23. Natural-Born Mothers, Sarah Blaffer Hrdy, Natural History, December 1995.
Maternal behavior in mammals involves hormones secreted by the pituitary gland, such as oxytocin and prolactin. The presence of the right concentration of these hormones at the right time of pregnancy and lactation can facilitate the expression of maternal behavior. External factors such as the presence of a male can also influence such behavior.
24. Treatment of Men with Paraphilia with a Long-Acting Analogue of Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone, Ariel Rösler and Eliezer Witztum, The New England Journal of Medicine, February 12, 1998.
The approaches dealing with deviant sexual behaviors vary across different sectors of our society. One approach is to criminalize the act; another way is to view it as a biological malfunction. The authors briefly review how hormones and their agonists or antagonists affect sexual behaviors in human males.
25. Impotence in the Age of Viagra, Arnold Melman, Scientific American, Summer 1999.
One of the buzz words to close the millenium is Viagra. The obvious interest in this drug perhaps reveals society's obsession with sexuality. Impotence in men could be due to psychological or physiological factors, and more often the two variables eventually become intertwined.
26. Differences in Parental Investment Contribute to Important Differences between Men and Women, David F. Bjorklund and Todd K. Shackelford, Current Directions in Psychological Science, June 1999.
Men and women appear to differ in their motivations, strategies, and criteria when it comes to finding a mate. Nevertheless, from the evolutionary psychological perspective, both simply aim to maximize their chances of successfully generating their genes for the future.
UNIT 7. Sleep and Biological Rhythms
27. `Traveling Light' Has New Meaning for Jet Laggards, Edwin Kiester Jr., Smithsonian, April 1997.
Melatonin, a hormone secreted by the cells of the pineal gland, is believed to facilitate sleep. The hormone tends to be secreted at high levels in the evening, and the peak secretion occurs just before the person falls asleep. The therapeutic significance of melatonin as a drug is discussed in the context of jet lag.
28. No More Counting Sheep: Helping Patients Conquer Insomnia, William A. Mosier, A. Susan Nelson, and Kenneth D. Walgren, Advance for Physician Assistants, January 1999.
Insomnia, or difficulty in sleeping, affects a significant proportion of people in our population. The remedies are diverse: from improving one's sleep habits to taking prescription drugs. This article reviews the major symptoms, development, and current drug medications used in the treatment of this condition.
29. Insomnia in Aged Found Treatable, Erica Goode, New York Times, March 17, 1999.
We have a lot of myths about the sleeping habits of the elderly. We tend to believe that they really do not need a lot of sleep. Whether that is true or not, some elderly do suffer from insomnia. Erica Goode describes the application of psychotherapy and drug medication when dealing with insomnia among the elderly population.
30. Techniques for Analyzing Gene Expression in the Mammalian Circadian Clock, Lauren P. Shearman, Steven M. Reppert, and David R. Weaver, Neural Notes, Volume V, Issue 1, 1999.
Some behaviors and physiological events exhibit a pattern of circadian rhythm, which is a pattern that recurs every 24 hours. This study shows how the genes within the neurons of the SCN express their protein products.
UNIT 8. Emotions
31. Something Snapped, Philip LoPiccolo, Technology Review, October 1996.
Recently, more and more cases of violent crimes have been committed by people who appear to be normal until such an event happens. These cases suggest a new syndrome of psychological disorder. This syndrome could be a form of kindling of the limbic system, which is the locus of emotional control.
32. Depression: Beyond Serotonin, Hara Estroff Marano, Psychology Today, March/April 1999.
Depression is an emotional state that afflicts a significant proportion of our population. Thus it is not surprising that scientists spend much of their time and talents trying to understand the mechanisms and possible treatments of this condition.
33. Why Stress Is Bad for Your Brain, Robert M. Sapolsky, Science, August 9, 1996.
Many people nowadays complain about stress at work, at home, or even at play! We are right in believing that it is not good for us, but the actual mechanisms of how this emotional state can adversely affect our physical bodies have not yet been revealed.
UNIT 9. Learning and Memory
34. How Does the Brain Organize Memories?, Howard Eichenbaum, Science, July 18, 1997.
Information stored in the brain can be classified qualitatively, such as being episodic or semantic memories. It is believed that the different types of memories involve specific areas of the brain. The roles of the hippocampus and the parahippocampal structures in memory storage are discussed in this article.
35. Hormones and the Mind, Claudia Kalb, Newsweek, April 19, 1999.
Estrogen, a steroid hormone, has been shown to enhance memory in postmenopausal women. This article describes how estrogen treatment can increase the activity of areas in the brain associated with memory.
36. Traumatic Memory Is Special, Lynn Nadel and W. Jake Jacobs, Current Directions in Psychological Science, October 1998.
The brain apparently stores different types of memories in different regions of the brain. Traumatic memories may involve a unique kind of mechanism, one that involves the alteration of hippocampal functions as a result of corticosteroid production by the adrenal glands caused by a stressful event.
37. Flashbulb Memory Assumptions: Using National Surveys to Explore Cognitive Phenomena, Daniel B. Wright, George D. Gaskell, and Colm A. O'Muircheartaigh, British Journal of Psychology, February 1998.
Flashbulb memories are very vivid personal memories of what one was doing when a particular significant event was first heard. This report attempts to unravel some of the variables that can influence such an experience.
UNIT 10. Disorders of Behavior and the Nervous System
38. Acetylcholinesterase Inhibitors for Alzheimer's Disease: More Benefit May Arise from the Assessments They Necessitate, Leon Flicker, British Medical Journal, March 6, 1999.
Alzheimer's disease is characterized by the degeneration of acetylcholine-producing neurons in different parts of the brain, particularly in the hippocampus. This article reviews some of the latest drugs that have been tested for the treatment of Alzheimer's disease.
39. Better Drugs to Treat Tremors, Tim Friend, USA Today, July 27, 1999.
Parkinson's disease is a neurological disorder that is characterized by muscular and other erratic motor activities that become more severe as the disease progresses. Only a handful of drugs have been developed to relieve the symptoms of this disease and no real cure has yet been found.
40. Playing for Time against MS: Aggressive Treatment Could Slow the Disease's Deadly Progression, Kathleen Fackelmann, USA Today, February 15, 1999.
Multiple sclerosis is a neurodegenerative disease characterized by the destruction of the myelin sheath that covers axons of neurons. There is no single drug out there that can claim to be a cure for this debilitating illness.
41. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders, Psychostimulants, and Intolerance of Childhood Playfulness: A Tragedy in the Making?, Jaak Panksepp, Current Directions in Psychological Science, June 1998.
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and Ritalin have become the buzz words in many schools across the country. What really is happening to our kids? Jaak Panksepp presents a balanced view on the use or misuse of this diagnosis, the role of medication, and what constitutes proper psychological intervention.
UNIT 11. Ethical Issues
42. Politics of Biology, Wray Herbert, U.S. News & World Report, April 21, 1997.
As citizens of a civilized society, we subscribe to certain norms of behaviors in order to maintain an acceptable level of social stability. The nature-versus-nurture debate has become the foundation in understanding these behaviors.
43. Anti-Aging Potion or Poison?, Alex Kuczynski, New York Times, April 12, 1998.
The baby boomers are getting old. In this the reason why there is an obsession today about staying young forever? Some scientists even consider aging as a disease, a new perspective of a developmental event. One of the controversial drugs believed to delay the aging process is a growth hormone, which is naturally secreted by cells that are found in the pituitary gland of the brain.
44. Good Eggs, Bad Eggs, Frederic Golden, Time, January 11, 1999.
Molecular biology is close to completing the map of the human genome. We now have a much better understanding of the functions of the different genes in our chromosomes. Modern technology has also allowed us to examine the potentials (or lack thereof) of our genes, a process called genetic screening.
UNIT 12. Evolutionary Perspectives
45. Sex Differences in Jealousy in Evolutionary and Cultural Perspective: Tests from the Netherlands, Germany, and the U.S., Bram P. Buunk, Alois Angleitner, Viktor Oubaid, and David M. Buss, Psychological Science, November 1996.
Men tend to get jealous on the basis of sexual infidelity, while women tend to get jealous on the basis of emotional infidelity. This report examines the sexual infidelity issue and how it threatens the reproductive fitness.
46. Law of the Jungle: Altruisum, Laura Tangley, U.S. News & World Report, February 15, 1999.
An evolutionary perspective is one of altruism: that since survival of the individual depends on the survival of the group, altruism, not selfishness within the group, is a strategy that better ensures individual survival and reproductive success.
47. Talking from Hand to Mouth, Sharon Begley, Newsweek, March 15, 1999.
Comparative psychology is one of the disciplines in biopsychology that has helped us to understand human behavior. Cognitive psychologists who study language have utilized the rudimentary abilities to communicate of nonhuman primates such as chimpanzees in order to understand how speech and language developed in humans.
48. The Origins of Sex Differences in Human Behavior, Alice H. Eagly and Wendy Wood, American Psychologist, June 1999.
Sex differences in behaviors of humans have always amused the public, but, from the scientific point of view, the debate as to the origin of these differences is far from settled. This essay describes quite clearly these two major perspectives: one coming from evolutionary psychology, and the other from a social structure perspective.
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