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  • Charles Darwin: The Man.
    • The HMS Beagle voyage.
    • Cousin of Sir Francis Galton.
    • Influenced by Thomas Malthus’s “Essay of the Principle of Population”.
    • Presented “On the Origin of the Species by Natural Selection” in 1859.
      • Book sold out in the first day.

Figure 2.1 Humans and Some “Relatives.” The idea that humans were genetically related to apes and other animals was so distant from 19th-century views of the species that Darwin was initially reluctant to disclose his theory of evolution. The Descent of Man, published in 1871, made the case that humans, like other species, were a product of evolution. Darwin believed that the great apes (chimpanzees, gorillas, and so on) and humans shared a common primate ancestor.

  • Figure 2.1 Humans and Some “Relatives.” The idea that humans were genetically related to apes and other animals was so distant from 19th-century views of the species that Darwin was initially reluctant to disclose his theory of evolution. The Descent of Man, published in 1871, made the case that humans, like other species, were a product of evolution. Darwin believed that the great apes (chimpanzees, gorillas, and so on) and humans shared a common primate ancestor.

Evolution and Evolutionary Psychology

  • Theory of Evolution.
    • Natural Selection:
      • Survival of the fittest.
    • Biology serves as the material base for our behaviors, emotions and cognitions.
    • Mutations:
    • differences in individual traits and/or adaptations for survival
  • Evolutionary Psychology:
    • Applying adaptation and natural selection to mental processes and behavior.
    • Instincts:
      • stereotyped pattern of behavior that is triggered in specific situations
        • Examples of instincts: The Egg Zone; Stickleback Fish; Song of the Sparrow.


  • one’s biological structures and processes transmitted from generation to generation.
  • Behavioral Genetics:
    • Bridges the sciences of psychology and biology. Concerned with the genetic transmission of traits that give rise to patterns of behaviors.
  • Figure 2.2 The Double Helix of DNA. Segments of DNA are made up of genes that determine physical traits such as height, eye color, and whether pigs have wings (no, because of their genetic makeup, they don’t.) The overlap of DNA from person to person is 99.9%! Yet the difference in .1% accounts for the differences between Mozart, and Nelson Mandela, and between Michelle Kwan and Oprah Winfrey. Psychologists debate the extent to which genes influence psychological traits such as intelligence, aggressiveness, and happiness, and the appearance of psychological disorders such as schizophrenia.

Heredity: The Nature of Nature

  • Molecular Genetics:
    • attempts to identify specific genes that are connected with behavior and mental processes.
      • Examples include:
        • sociability, shyness, aggressiveness, thrill seeking, anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, alcoholism, and criminal behavior.

Heredity: The Nature of Nature

  • Genes:
    • basic building blocks of heredity. 30,000 - 40,000 genes within every cell of a person’s body.
  • Chromosomes:
    • strings of genes. Each cell contains 46 arranged in 23 pairs.
  • DNA:
    • Chromosomes are large complex molecules of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA).

Heredity: The Nature of Nature

  • Human Genome Project:
  • has learned that the sequencing of your DNA consists of about 3 billion DNA sequences.
  • Genetic Code:
    • The DNA sequences that “define” each person.
    • Sperm and Egg:
      • 23 chromosomes from the father’s sperm and 23 chromosomes from the mother’s egg. When the egg is fertilized by the sperm they form 23 pairs.
    • Sex Chromosomes:
      • The 23rd pair of chromosomes which determine a person’s sex, male or female. X female; Y male.
      • Determined by father.
  • Figure 2.3 The 23 Pairs of Human Chromosomes. People normally have 23 pairs of chromosomes. Whether one is female or male is determined by the 23rd pair of chromosomes. Females have two X sex chromosomes, whereas males have an X and a Y sex chromosome.

Kinship Studies

  • Attempt to compare traits and behavior patterns in people who are biologically related or unrelated to help determine the role of genetic factors.
  • Twin Studies
    • Monozygotic Twins (MZ):
      • Identical twins from the same fertilized egg.
    • Dizygotic Twins (DZ):
      • Fraternal twins, two separate fertilized eggs.
    • Twin studies compare the presence of traits in MZ twins, DZ twins and others to help determine the role of genetic factors.
      • If MZ twins show greater similarity on a trait than DZ twins a genetic basis for the trait has been suggested.

Adoption Studies

  • Look for similarities between children, their natural and adoptive parents.
      • When children reared by adoptive parents are more similar to their natural parents in a particular trait, strong evidence exists for a genetic role.

Selective Breeding

  • Enhances desired physical and behavioral traits.
    • Examples: cattle, chicken, dogs.
    • Tryon rat studies: Bred rats to become “maze dull” and “maze bright”.
      • By the seventh generation maze bright rats are making only one error per trial, maze dull are making 9-10 errors per trial.
  • Figure 2.4 Selective Breeding for Maze-Learning Ability in Rats. Humans selectively breed animals and plants to achieve desired physical traits. However, in the case of animals, it is also possible to selectively breed for psychological traits and behaviors such as aggressiveness and trainability (in dogs) and maze learning ability (in rats). In the classic Tryon (1940) study, “maze bright” and “maze-dull” rats were selectively bred over generations, until the distributions of their maze-learning ability barely overlapped.

The Nervous System

  • Neurons: the nerve cells of the body
    • Cell Body:
      • contains the nucleus which generates energy
    • Dendrites:
      • receive incoming messages from adjourning cells (roots).
    • Axon:
      • carry messages away from the cell body (trunk).
  • Figure 2.5 The anatomy of a neuron. Message enter neurons through dendrites, are transmitted along the trunklike axon, and are then sent from the axon terminal buttons to muscles, glands and other neurons. Axon terminal buttons contain sacs of chemicals called neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are released into the synaptic cleft, where many of them bind to receptor sites on the dendrite of the receiving neuron. Dozens of neurotransmitters have been identified.

The Nervous System

  • Parts of a neuron continued.
    • Terminals (terminal buttons):
      • bulb shaped structure at the end of the axon.
    • Myelin:
      • fatty substance around axons that facilitate conduction.
    • Glial cells:
      • remove dead neurons and waste products from the nervous system.

The Neural Impulse

  • A message traveling along the neuron; between 2 and 225 miles an hour.
  • An Electrochemical Voyage.
    • Neuron resting potential:
      • -70 millivolts (negative charge).
    • Depolarized:
      • action of the cell while it becomes positively charged.
    • Action potential:
      • positively charged neuron returning to the resting state of being negatively charged. The “message” is sent.
  • Figure 2.6 When a section of a neuron is stimulated by other neurons, the cell membrane becomes permeable to sodium ions so that an action potential of about 40 millivolts is induced. This action potential is transmitted along the axon. The neuron fires according to the all-or-none principle.


  • neurons attempt to transmit messages to other neurons, muscles or glands.
    • Threshold:
      • Each neuron has a threshold; the cell will not fire until the threshold is reached.
    • All or None Principle:
      • When the threshold is reached the neuron fires an impulse of the same strength.
    • Refractory Period:
      • a period of time when the neuron will not fire; period of recovery during which positive sodium is not allowed to pass through the neural membrane.
    • Synapse:
      • Junction (fluid filled gap between neurons).

Neurotransmitters: The Chemical Keys to Communication

  • Synaptic Vesicles:
    • sacs in the axon terminals which contain neurotransmitters.
  • Neurotransmitters:
    • the chemical keys to communication which influence the receiving neuron
    • Receptor Site:
      • specifically tailored site on the receiving neuron where the chemical key (neurotransmitter) fits.
    • Reuptake:
      • reabsorption of neurotransmitters by the sending neuron.
    • Excitatory:
      • neurotransmitter influence on the receiving cell causing it to fire.
    • Inhibitory:
      • neurotransmitter influence on the receiving cell preventing it from firing.

Types of Neurotransmitters

  • Acetylcholine (ACh):
    • controls muscle contractions; can be both excitatory and inhibitory.
    • Curare and Botulism both leading to paralysis.
    • Decreases in ACh is associated with Alzheimer's related memory problems.
  • Dopamine:
    • affects voluntary movements, learning, memory and arousal.
    • Deficiencies are linked to Parkinson’s Disease.
    • People with schizophrenia may have more receptor sites for dopamine leading to confusion and false perceptions.

Types of Neurotransmitters

  • Norepinephrine:
    • produced largely in the brain stem; acts as a neurotransmitter and as a hormone;
    • involved in general arousal, learning and memory, and eating; linked to mood disorders.
    • Cocaine creates an excess of norepinephrine leading to persistent arousal.
  • Serotonin:
    • involved in emotional arousal and sleep.
    • Deficiencies have been linked to eating disorders, alcoholism, depression, aggression, and insomnia.

Types of Neurotransmitters

  • Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA):
    • inhibitory neurotransmitter that may help calm anxiety reactions.
    • Tranquilizers and alcohol may quell anxiety by binding with GABA receptors.
  • Endorphins:
    • inhibitory neurotransmitter; endogenous morphine.
    • Natural painkiller.
    • Experienced by runners as the runner’s high.

The Parts of the Nervous System

  • Nerve:
    • a bundle of axons.
  • Central Nervous System:
    • brain and spinal cord.
  • Peripheral Nervous System:
    • afferent and efferent neurons which transmit messages from the brain or spinal cord to muscles and glands.
  • Figure 2.8 The Divisions of the Nervous System. The nervous system contains two main divisions: the central nervous system and the peripheral nervous system. The central nervous system consists of the brain and spinal cord. The peripheral nervous system contains the somatic and autonomic systems. In turn, the autonomic nervous system has sympathetic and parasympathetic divisions.

The Peripheral Nervous System

  • Somatic Nervous System:
    • afferent and efferent neurons that transmit sights, sounds, smells, temperature, body positions, etc.
    • Purposeful body movements.
  • Autonomic Nervous System:
    • “Automatic” regulates the glands and internal organ muscles; heartbeat, respiration, digestion, dilation of the pupils, etc.
      • Sympathetic Division:
        • active during processes that involve spending body energy; fight or flight.
      • Parasympathetic Division:
        • active during processes that replenish reserves of energy.
  • Figure 2.9 The Branches of the Autonomic Nervous System. The parasympathetic branch of the ANS generally acts to replenish stores of energy in the body. The sympathetic branch is the most active during activities that expend energy. The two branches of the ANS frequently have antagonistic effects on the organs they service.

The Central Nervous System

  • Spinal Cord: column of nerves transmits messages from sensory receptors to the brain and from the brain to muscles and glands throughout the body
    • Spinal Reflexes: unlearned response to a stimulus that may involve only two neurons: afferent and efferent.
    • Interneuron: a third neuron that transmits the neural impulse from the sensory neuron through the spinal cord to the motor neuron.
    • Gray Matter: non-myelinated neurons; found in brain and spinal cord.
    • White Matter: myelinated neurons; found in brain and spinal cord.

The Brain: The Star of the Nervous System

  • Gender Differences

Seeing the Brain Through the Eyes of the Psychologist

  • Accidents.
    • provide unplanned, uncontrolled opportunities of studying the brain (see Phineas Gage).
  • Experimenting with the Brain.
    • Lesioning: damaging part of the brain.
  • The Electroencephalograph (EEG).
    • EEG detects minute amounts of electrical activity in the brain.
  • Brain Imaging Techniques.
    • CAT (computerized axial tomograph)
    • PET (positron emission tomography): computer
    • MRII (magnetic reasoning imaging):

CAT (computerized axial tomograph)

  • A scan which passes a narrow X-ray beam through the head and measures brain structures.
  • Generates a three dimensional image of the brain.
  • Reveals deformities in shape and structure that are connected with blood clots, tumors, and other health problems.

MRI (magnetic reasoning imaging)

  • Person lies in a powerful magnetic field and is exposed to radio waves that cause parts of the brain to emit signals.
  • Relies on subtle shifts in blood flow.
  • MRI has shown people with schizophrenia have smaller prefrontal regions but larger ventricles.

PET (positron emission tomography)

  • computer generated image of the activity of parts of the brain by tracing the amount of glucose used.
  • A harmless amount of radioactive compound (tracer) is mixed with glucose and injected into the blood stream.
  • Used to see which parts of the brain are most active when we are engaged in various activities
    • Examples include:
      • listening to music,
      • working out, and
      • math problems

Voyage Through the Brain

  • Hindbrain: where the spinal cord meets the brain. Contains three structures.
    • Medulla:
    • Pons:
      • transmits information about body movements and is involved in functions related to attention, sleep/alertness and respiration.
    • Cerebellum:
      • involved in maintaining balance and controlling motor behavior.
  • Figure 2.13 The Parts of the Human Brain. This view of the brain, split top to bottom, shows some of the most important structures. Note how close the hypothalamus is to the pituitary gland. The proximity allows the hypothalamus to readily influence the pituitary gland. The “valleys” in the cerebrum are called fissures.

Voyage Through the Brain

  • Reticular Activating System (RAS):
    • vital in the functions of attention, sleep and arousal.


  • forward most part of the brain containing thalamus, hypothalamus, limbic system and the cerebrum.
  • Thalamus:
    • relay station for sensory stimulation.
  • Hypothalamus:
    • vital for body temperature regulation, concentration of fluids, storage of nutrients, aspects of motivation and emotion.
    • Also involved in hunger, thirst and sexual behavior.


  • Limbic System:
    • Includes the amygdala, hippocampus, and parts of the hypothalamus.
    • Involved in memory, emotion and in the drives of hunger, sex and aggression.
    • Amygdala:
  • Cerebrum:
    • responsible for thinking and language.
  • Figure 2.14 The Limbic System. The limbic system is made up of structures that include the amygdala, the hippocampus, and parts of the hypothalamus. It is evolved fully only in mammals and forms a fringe along the inner edge of the cerebrum. The limbic system is involved in memory and emotion, and in the drives of hunger, sex, and aggression

Corpus Callosum

  • a bundle of some 200 million nerve fibers connecting the two hemispheres.

The Cerebral Cortex

  • Outer layer of the cerebrum about 1/8 of an inch thick.
  • Involved in most bodily activities, sensations, and responses.
    • Frontal Lobe:
      • In front of the central fissure.
      • Contains the motor cortex, which causes our body to move.
    • Parietal Lobe:
      • Behind central fissure.
      • Contains the somatosensory cortex which receives messages from skin senses all over the body.
    • Temporal Lobe:
      • Lies below the lateral fissure.
      • Contains the auditory area (hearing).
    • Occipital Lobe:
      • lies behind the temporal lobe.
      • Is involved with vision.
  • Figure 2.15 The Geography of the Cerebral Cortex. The cortex is divided into 4 lobes: frontal, parietal, temporal, and occipital. The visual area of the cortex is located in the occipital lobe. The hearing or auditory cortex lies in the temporal lobe. The sensory and motor areas face each other across the central fissure.

Language Functions

  • Aphasia: disruption in the ability to understand or produce language.
    • Wernicke’s Area:
      • in the temporal lobe responds mainly to auditory information.
    • Wernicke’s aphasia:
        • impaired ability to comprehend speech and to think of the proper words to express.
    • Broca’s area:
      • processes information and sends it to the motor cortex.
    • Broca’s aphasia:
      • Damage to this area results; people can understand language but will speak slowly in simple sentences.
  • Figure 2.16 Broca’s and Wernicke’s Areas of the Cerebral Cortex. The areas that are most involved in speech are Broca’s area and Wernicke’s Areas of the Cerebral Cortex. Damage to either area can produce an aphasia--a disruptions o the ability to understand or produce language.

Left Brain, Right Brain

  • Left Brain, Right Brain.
    • Left brain:
      • primarily logical and intellectual.
    • Right brain:
      • primarily intuitive, creative, and emotional.
  • At best this is exaggerated.
  • The hemispheres do not act independently as they are connected by the corpus callosum.


  • Is It Gauche or Sinister to Be Left Handed?
    • Lefties: 8-10% of people are left handed; more common in males.
      • Has been connected with language problems, dyslexia, stuttering, migraine headaches, allergies, schizophrenia.
      • On the other side being left handed is associated with artists, musicians, and mathematicians.
    • Handedness runs in families.

Split Brain Experiments

  • Some people with epilepsy have split brain operations in which much of their corpus callosum is severed.
  • Each hemisphere has a mind of it’s own.
    • One patient described a situation he encountered, as one hemisphere liking reading and other not.
    • If he shifted the book from his right hand to his left, his left hand would put the book down.
  • Figure 2.18 A Divided-Brain Experiment. In the drawing on the left, we see that visual sensations in the left visual field are projected in the occipital cortex of the right hemispheres. Visual sensations from the right visual field are projected in the occipital cortex in the left hemisphere. In the divided-brain experiment diagrammed on the right, a person with a severed corpus callosum handles a key with his left hand and perceives the written word key in his left visual field. The word ‘key” is projected in the right hemisphere. Speech, however is usually a function of the left hemisphere. The written word “ring” perceived by the right visual field is projected in the left hemisphere. So when asked what he is handling, the divided-brain subject reports “ring,” not “key.”

The Endocrine System: Chemicals in the Bloodstream

  • Glands: secrete hormones.
    • Two types:
      • With ducts (saliva, sweat, tears).
      • Without ducts (released into the blood stream).
  • Pituitary Gland:
    • implicated in growth.
    • sometimes referred to as the Master Gland as it influences other glands in the endocrine system.

Types of Hormones

  • Growth Hormone:
    • regulates growth of muscles, bones and glands.
  • Prolactin:
    • regulates maternal behavior in lower animals such as rats, also produces milk in women.
  • Antidiuretic Hormone (ADH):
    • inhibits production of urine when fluid levels in the body are low.
  • Oxytocin:
    • stimulates labor in pregnant women.
  • Melatonin:
    • secreted by the Pineal gland and helps regulate the sleep-wake cycle.

Types of Hormones

  • Thyroxin:
    • secreted by the thyroid and affects the body’s metabolism.
      • Hypothyroidism is too little thyroxin and results in being overweight.
      • Hyperthyroidism is too much thyroxin and is characterized by excitability, insomnia, and weight loss.
      • Cretinism is a conditioned caused by a deficiency in thyroxin in children which leads to stunted growth and mental retardation.
  • Adrenal glands:
    • release hormones to increase resistance to stress.
    • Promote muscle development and the release of sugar in the liver making more energy available.
    • Epinephrine: is also known as adrenaline; produced by the adrenal glands.

Types of Hormones

  • Testosterone: produced by the testes and in small amounts by the ovaries.
    • Considered to be the male sex hormone as it aids in the development of male sex organs.
    • During puberty the release of testosterone promotes the development of primary and secondary sex characteristics.
    • Primary sex characteristics:
      • those characteristics involved in reproduction: increased penis size, sperm producing ability of the testes.
    • Secondary sex characteristics:
      • Not directly related to reproduction: presence of a beard, deeper voice.
  • Estrogen and Progesterone: produced by the ovaries and in small amounts by the testes.
    • Fosters female reproductive capacity and secondary sex characteristics.
    • The levels of estrogen and progesterone vary and regulate the woman’s menstrual cycle.

Steroids, Behavior and Mental Processes

  • Anabolic (synthetic) steroids are used with growth hormone to enhance
    • Athletic prowess
    • Self-confidence
    • Aggressiveness
    • Memory functioning
  • Linked liver damage and other health problems
  • Estrogen affects women’s perceptions of who is attractive
    • Prefer feminized mail faces during most phases of menstrual cycle

Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)

  • 3 out of 4 women report having some psychological and physical problems
    • Depression, anxiety, and headaches during the four to six days that precede menstruation.
  • However only 1 in 10 has symptoms severe enough to impair academic, occupational, or social functioning.
  • PMS may be a complex interaction between ovarian hormones and neurotransmitters.
  • Once seen as something a woman must tolerate, today there are many treatment options (diet, exercise, hormone treatments).

How to Handle Menstrual Discomfort

  • Don’t blame yourself.
  • Keep track of your menstrual symptoms to help you and your doctor identify patterns.
  • Develop strategies for dealing with days on which you experience the most distress.
  • Ask yourself whether you harbor self-defeating attitudes that might be compounding distress.
  • See a doctor about your symptoms.
  • Develop nutritious eating habits.

How to Handle Menstrual Discomfort

  • If you feel bloated, eat smaller meals.
  • Vigorous exercise.
  • Check with your doctor about herbal, vitamin and mineral supplements.
  • Ibuprofen and other medications available over the counter may be helpful for cramping.
  • Menstruation is triggered by a sharp drop off in sex hormones.
    • Some gynecologists prescribe estrogen replacement though this is not hazard free.
  • Remind yourself that menstrual problems are time limited.

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