What Is Neuroscience Psychology, And What Can It Do For Me?
By: Darby Faubion
Updated November 17, 2020
Medically Reviewed By: Tanya Harell
Many people are familiar with how external factors, such as environment and relationships, affect a person's behavior and cognitive functions. Have you ever wondered how internal factors, such as the brain and the nervous system, can also impact these things?
The field of medicine is ever-changing and developing. The practice of psychology is certainly no exception. Today, psychologists and medical researchers look at several components when evaluating what affects an individual mentally. While the body and mind were for years considered separate, scientists have come to understand that there are many ways that the structure and functions of the brain relate to specific ways our minds process information.
While psychology is the study of behavior and the mind, neuroscience psychology is a more in-depth study that deals with how biological and chemical processes make the brain and nervous system function. Neuroscience psychology, often called cognitive neuroscience, shows that activity in the brain is intertwined with our behavior and mental processes. Cognitive neuroscience is an interdisciplinary approach that generally utilizes neuroscientific methods and technology to study thoughts and behaviors. Practitioners use neuroimaging to view the brain as it functions, which can lead to a better understanding of the connections between neuroscience and psychology. For example, lesions and other brain abnormalities are often used in research to understand the functions of a healthy brain, and its impact on behavior.
The human brain is a very complex organ. It controls memory and learning, the senses (hearing, sight, smell, taste, and touch), and emotions. Additionally, the brain controls other organs, muscles, and vessels. The brain contains billions of nerve cells called neurons that communicate with one another to help the body function normally. Because the nervous system impacts a person's response to internal and external stimuli, any malfunction or abnormality within the system can have a negative effect on a person's mental well-being.
The Nervous System and Your Body's Responses
The central nervous system is one of two major subdivisions of the nervous system, including the brain and spinal cord, which comprise the body's main control center. The central nervous system performs fundamental functions that contribute to a person's life and behavior.
One part of the nervous system, known as the sympathetic nervous system, is responsible for the body's "fight-or-flight" reaction in response to dangerous or stressful situations. It increases physical arousal levels, raising the heart and breathing rate, and it prepares the body to run away from or confront the dangerous or stressful situation. The parasympathetic nervous system helps to calm the body down again by activating a "rest and digest" response after a stressful event. It helps the body to conserve energy, reduces physical arousal, and slows the heart and respiratory rates. These two systems help to maintain balance within the body.
Why Is Neuroscience Psychology Helpful?
When the central nervous system does not function properly, it can result in altered behavior and changes in emotional responses to stressors. By identifying how the nervous system may trigger some emotional responses, doctors and psychologists can address underlying issues that may help reduce or prevent some psychological issues.
Helping psychologists understand the “how” is perhaps the most significant contribution of neuroscience to psychology. It has helped psychologists better understand the extent to which our brains are “plastic,” at every level of growth. This “plasticity” refers to how much our environment and behaviors can affect the development of our brains.
There are also applications for neuroscience that involve detecting mental health problems before symptoms have surfaced. Research suggests neuroscientists may be able to identify different neural activity patterns in young children, which will show up in their behavior later in life. This means cognitive issues such as learning disorders can be addressed before they become too disruptive.
Neuroscience psychology is an interdisciplinary field, meaning that it integrates several disciplines, including psychology, biology, chemistry, and physics. By studying the nervous system, neuroscience psychology can add knowledge about human thoughts, emotions, and behavior. This is the main area of expertise for those working in the neuropsychology field.
Both neuropsychologists and neuroscientists focus their research on understanding brain disorders, injuries, and deficits. Because of this, these scientists must have a solid understanding of how psychological processes relate to the brain's structures and systems, and the inseparable connections between the functions of the brain and a person's cognitive functioning.
The Role of Psychology in Your Life
Experiencing feelings of imbalance, or an inability to understand one's emotions and how they may or may not be related to a physical condition, can feel quite overwhelming. If you are experiencing any physical or emotional symptoms, it's important to seek help. While some issues may be related to a minor illness, others may require a more in-depth look at symptoms and treatments.
It is always advisable to first seek the advice of your primary care provider if you have any concerns about your physical or mental well-being. Establishing a good relationship with a primary care doctor will help ensure that you have someone who can follow the path of your health and wellness and who can monitor any care you receive, even if it means being referred to a specialist elsewhere.
If you are experiencing physical symptoms that you believe stem from emotional causes, talk with your doctor about these symptoms. Also, there are several options for seeking mental health care outside of a primary medical doctor's office. Some people choose group therapy, while others prefer individual counseling. Additionally, while some individuals are able to travel to appointments and don't mind doing so, others may prefer to engage the services of a counselor or therapist through an online resource.
Understanding Your Emotions Through BetterHelp
There is a growing body of research pointing to online therapy as a useful way of helping address a wide variety of symptoms arising out of different neurological conditions. In a study published in the Journal of Psychosomatic Research, the effects of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) on depression in those living with chronic neurological conditions (CNCs) were examined. The study found that cognitive behavioral interventions were effective in treating symptoms associated with CNC-related depression. This research is in addition to a growing body of evidence showing that cognitive-behavioral therapy is a useful mode of managing a number of mental health issues. Also, a number of studies prove that internet-based platforms can be more accessible and flexible in providing this type of care, with fewer barriers (cost, availability, time) to receiving treatment
As mentioned above, internet-based therapy is an effective way of addressing various symptoms that can arise out of neurological conditions. BetterHelp is an online counseling service with a team of licensed, experienced, and professional counselors, psychologists, therapists, doctors, and social workers who can work with individuals to get to the root of any emotional or psychological issue. There's no need to sit in traffic or worry about taking the time out of your day to drive to an appointment. You can access BetterHelp from the comfort and privacy of your own home. Below, you can read some reviews of BetterHelp counselors from people who have been helped.
"Kristen helps me to see my life and myself from a different perspective. I tell her about my experiences and she is able to hone into another side of the story that I couldn't get working things out on my own. And I had tried, for a very long time. As someone particularly skeptical of counseling in general, it has been refreshing to speak and work with someone who genuinely recognizes that I am seeking help but reluctant to take it. Her patience and consistent inquiry have been the greatest asset for me and I appreciate my time with her."
"I've worked with Jamie for a number of months and he's helped me with everything that life has thrown my way. Difficulty in work, my relationship, and other stresses that I've struggled to navigate by myself. He listens and he helps. I always feel validated and supported. He gives me tools and perspectives that have made a big difference in my overall happiness."
Neuroscience psychology is an integrated approach to understanding the effect of the brain on psychological responses. Learning to recognize the connection of physical responses to possible emotional or psychological issues is an important step in learning to treat mental health and wellness issues. If you are experiencing physical symptoms that you think may be related to emotional issues, talking with a professional counselor or therapist may be helpful. No matter what you're experiencing, with the right tools, you can move forward.
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