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Posted on April 1st, 2012, by

Understanding of the role and function of neural processes and their impact on human behavior of one of the most interesting and challenging questions of the contemporary neuroscience. In order to get the answer to this question different specialists explore such problems as learning and memory, regulation of the behavior, motivation and emotions,  information processing and cognition. “Understanding the cognitive and neurological processes is important for theoretical and practical reasons. From a theoretical point-of-view, it gives insight into the brain mechanisms involved in one of the most complex and human of activities and, by extension, in the functioning of the human mind in general”ť (van den Broek, 2007, p. 113). Many researches use the experience from different fields of science, such as psychology, physiology, biology and neuroscience.  There are several ways to get information about the connection between neuro processes and behavior. Neuroimaging tools may be used for this purpose. These tools explore human brain during cognitive tasks and different emotional states.  Other approach to investigation includes the exploration of animal models which help to study motivation of human behavior. Such an approach is used to explore sexual behavior, aggression, feeding, stress response and some other reactions. There is a branch of neuroscience which explores the difference and peculiarities of sleeping and wakefulness states.

There are several sciences which deal directly with the function of brain. Neuropsychology is the basic science dedicated to the study of function of brain in relation to psychological processes. This kind of psychology uses scientific approach to the study of mind. Biological psychology also studies the role and function of neuro processes. Biological psychologists believe that all behavior is conditioned by nervous system. They study the way brain functions in order to understand human behavior. Behavioral neuroscience is another name for biological psychology.

Different branches of science were created in order to get an understanding about the functioning of the brain.

The nervous system consists of huge amount of nervous cells ”“ neurons. Interaction between neurons provides normal functioning of the nervous system and brain. Nervous cells- neurons have dendritic branches. These branches serve as receptors which pass information fro one neuron to another one. When dendrites pass normal signals to other dendrites the electrical potential is depolarized. When several signals of depolarization get to the axon of the cell the action potential appears. The action potential is passed from one cell to another via special channels which got the name gap junctions. There is anther way neurons communicate with each other. This communication is fulfilled through chemical synapses. This type of reaction is applied for cells which are distanced from one another. In this case special chemicals which pass information from one cell to another take part in the reaction. These chemicals are called neurotransmitters. The process during which information is passed from one cell to another with the help of neurotransmitters is called synaptic transmission. The process of information passage has for stages. During the first stage neurotransmitters are saved in the vesicles. They are ready for action. The second stage starts when the action potential reaches the cell. During this stage neurotransmitter is recognized by the receptors of postsynaptic cell. “Following exocytosis, the vesicular membrane, presently a continuous extension of the pre-synaptic membrane, forms a pit and pinches off into the terminal to form a new, vacant vesicle. This vesicle is then either recycled and refilled with more of the neurotransmitter, or sent to the cell body, where it is broken down, processed into a new vesicle, and transported to the terminal where it can then be filled with the neurotransmitter”ť(Williams College Neuroscience, 1998). After this happens it can pass the signal which starts another action potential. Postsynaptic neurons are the receptors which block the signals of other neurons. The main function of postsynaptic potentials is to start action potentials.

Postsynaptic potentials are divided into excitatory and inhibitory potentials. The division is defined by the impact of postsynaptic potentials on the action potential of the cell. Potentials which increase postsynaptic action potential got the name excitatory postsynaptic potentials. In the case when the probability of the action is decreased postsynaptic potentials are called inhibitory potentials. “Some neurotransmitters are excitatory and depolarize the next cell, increasing the probability that an action potential will be fired. Others are inhibitory, causing the membrane of the next cell to hyperpolarize, thus decreasing the probability of that the next neuron will fire an action potential”ť (Williams College Neuroscience, 1998).

As soon as receptor recognizes the neurotransmitter the function of neurotransmitter is over. After this happens neurotransmitter is deactivated. Normal function of neurotransmitters, excitatory postsynaptic potentials and inhibitory postsynaptic potentials is necessary for the normal functioning of the brain. Different kinds of information are passed with the help of different neurotransmitters and that is the reason different types of neurotransmitters are saved in different parts of the brain. It is hard to overestimate the role of neurotransmitters for normal functioning of the brain. Misbalance of neurotransmitters results in the damage of the brain function.

At the present moment researches make an attempt to investigate possible reasons of neurotransmitters imbalance. Genetics, aging and drugs are the most common reasons of imbalance.

The damage of neurotransmitters in any of four stages may result in serious brain dysfunction including Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and other mental illnesses.

Behavioral science uses different methods to explore the connection between human behavior and neural processes. The method of experiment with dependant and independent variables give opportunity to collect important information on the topic. This method of experiment requires one of the variables of the experiment to be biological. Lesions is another popular method of behavioral neuroscience. In this method part of the brain are destroyed or stimulated to change their function in order to observe the functions of these parts of brain. There are several ways to destroy or change the functions of brain-regions. Electrolytic lesions, chemical or temporary lesions   are usually used for these purposes. Transcranial magnetic stimulation and psychopharmacological manipulations are latest methods in this field. Enhancing function is a classic research method of behavioral neuroscience. In this method the neural activity is enhanced with the help of electrical current.

Psychopharmacological manipulations assume the replacement of enhancement of endogenous neurotransmitters. This result is achieved with the help of chemical receptor agonist. Agonists may be used systematically or locally.

Measuring neural activity is another method which helps to study the impact of neural reactions of human behavior. In this method the electrode is inset into the brain of living animal. With the help of this electrode researches get an opportunity to detect electrical activity of the brain.

For human creature Functional magnetic resonance imaging is often used. During this kind of studies the cerebral blow flow is measured in order to get information about the functioning of brain regions. Electroencephalography is a derivative technique usually used with humans as well.

All these methods are designed in order to find the connection between neural processes and human behavior.

Latest researches in this field give scientists opportunity to find different means to deal with brain dysfunction.

For example, researchers found out that schizophrenia is caused by the excessive neurotransmission of dopamine.

In this case special drugs which can block this neurotransmission may be used. “Because D2 dopamine receptors are present not only on the post-synaptic membrane, but on the cell bodies, dendrites and nerve terminals of presynaptic cells as well, antipsychotic compounds can interfere with dopaminergic neurotransmission at various sites in both the pre- and postsynaptic cell”ť (Byrne and Roberts 2004, p. 46).

The abilities of behavioral neuroscience  or biological psychology  are immense. The study of biological nature of brain function opens wide perspectives which allow to influence feelings, emotions, cognitive processes and motivation of people.

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