What Is Neuroscience Psychology, And What Can It Do For Me?

Medically reviewed by April Justice, LICSW
Updated May 14, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Many people are familiar with how external factors, such as environment and relationships, may affect a human behavior and cognitive functions. Have you ever wondered how internal factors, such as the brain and the nervous system, can also impact your mental health? 

The field of medicine is ever-changing and developing. 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. Scientists in this field may take neuroscientific details to determine the biological roots of disorders like substance use or Alzheimer’s disease. 

If you are struggling with substance use, contact the SAMHSA National Helpline at (800) 662-4357 to receive support and resources. Support is available 24/7.

While psychology is the study of behavior and the mind, neuroscience psychology is a study that deals with how biological and chemical processes make the brain and nervous system function and how brain structures and neural circuits impact a patient. Neuroscience psychology, often called cognitive neuroscience, shows that activity in the brain can be intertwined with our behavior and mental processes. 

Cognitive neuroscience is an interdisciplinary approach that often utilizes neuroscientific methods and technology to study thoughts and behaviors. Practitioners use neuroimaging to view the brain as it functions, which may lead to a better understanding of the connections between clinical neuroscience and psychology. For example, lesions and other brain abnormalities are often used in research to understand the functions of a healthy versus unhealthy brain and its impact on behavior.

Wondering if neuroscience psychology can help?

The human brain is a complex organ. As the brain develops, it becomes increasingly complex and 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 brain 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 or neural development, may harm 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 contributing to a person's life and behavior.

When scientists study how a bodily function interacts with the brain it is called behavioral neuroscience. For example, 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 prepares the body to run away from or confront dangerous or stressful situations. It may also activate during perceived danger, such as in the case of an anxiety disorder. 

The parasympathetic nervous system calms the body down again by activating a "rest and digest" response after a stressful event. It may allow the body to conserve energy, reduce physical arousal, and slow the heart and respiratory rates. These two systems maintain balance within the body.

Why is neuroscience psychology helpful?

When the central nervous system does not function properly, it may result in altered behavior and changes in emotional responses to stressors. By identifying how the nervous system could trigger some emotional responses, doctors and psychologists may address underlying issues that reduce or prevent some psychological issues.

Helping psychologists understand the "how" through neuroscientific research is a significant contribution of neuroscience to psychology. Neuroscience 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.

Other applications for neuroscience involve detecting mental health problems before symptoms have surfaced. Modern neuroscience research suggests that neuroscientists may be able to identify different neural activity patterns in young children, which can show up in their behavior later in life. Cognitive issues such as learning disorders may be addressed before symptoms appear. 

Neuroscience psychology is an interdisciplinary field that provides a neural basis for behavior and integrates several areas, including psychology, biology, chemistry, and physics. Neuroscience psychology is a psychological theory that may add knowledge about human thoughts, emotions, and behavior by studying the nervous system. This area is the primary expertise for those working in the neuropsychology field, but what is neuropsychology?

Both neuropsychologists and neuroscientists focus their research on understanding brain disorders, injuries, and deficits along with how the physiological properties of the brain impact them. Because of this, these scientists understand how psychological processes relate to the brain's structures and systems and the inseparable connections between the brain's functions and a person's cognitive functioning.

There are many other disciplines or branches of neuroscience including: 

  • Computational neuroscience – uses mathematical models to predict brain function and impact on the body. 
  • Cellular neuroscience – studies neurons at a cellular level analyzing the biological processes of nerve cells in the brain. 
  • Social neuroscience –studies the neural systems involved with how the brain makes social choices and mediates social behavior.
  • Molecular neuroscience – studies how molecular biology impacts biological processes in the human body. 
  • Systems neuroscience – looks at how the neural network and nervous system as a whole impact a person and their psychological functioning.

The role of psychology in your life

Mental and physical well-being are often directly tied to one another and overall quality of 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 overwhelming.

If you are experiencing any unusual or disruptive physical or emotional symptoms, consider seeking support from a professional. While some issues may be related to a minor illness or temporary life circumstances, others may require a more in-depth look at symptoms and treatments.

You might choose to first seek the advice of your primary care provider if you have any concerns about your physical or mental well-being. Establishing a healthy relationship with a primary care doctor may ensure that you have someone who can follow the path of your health and wellness and monitor any care you receive, even if it means being referred to a specialist down the line. 

Talk with your doctor about these symptoms if you are experiencing physical symptoms that stem from emotional causes. There are several options for seeking mental health care outside a primary medical doctor's office. Some people choose group therapy, while others prefer individual counseling. Additionally, while some individuals can 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.

Wondering if neuroscience psychology can help?

Online counseling to understand your mind 

A growing body of research points to online therapy as a valuable way of addressing various symptoms arising from different neurological conditions. In a scientific study published in the Journal of Psychosomatic Research, the effects of online cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) on depression in those living with chronic neurological conditions (CNCs) were examined. 

The study found that cognitive-behavioral interventions effectively treated symptoms associated with CNC-related depression. This research is in addition to a growing body of evidence showing that cognitive-behavioral therapy helps manage several mental health issues. Also, internet-based platforms can be more convenient and flexible in providing this type of care, with fewer barriers to receiving treatment, such as time or cost. 

Online counseling platforms, such as BetterHelp, offer a team of licensed, experienced, and professional counselors who may work with individuals to get to the root of any emotional or psychological issue. 


Neuroscience psychology is an integrated approach to understanding the effect of the brain on psychological responses and overall well-being. Learning to recognize the connection of physical responses to possible emotional or psychological issues can be a 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 could be helpful.

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