What Is Behavioral Neuroscience?

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  • 0:00 The Definition of…
  • 0:49 Learning and Memory
  • 1:53 Sensorimotor Processing
  • 2:35 Decision-Making
  • 3:39 Emotional Functioning
  • 4:26 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Patricia Johnson

Patricia is a Clinical Health Psychologist with a Doctorate in Clinical Psychology. She has taught Life Span Development and worked with clients of all ages.

In this lesson, we will discuss the basics of behavioral neuroscience and the field's overall goals. We will also outline several major topics of study within the discipline.

The Definition of Behavioral Neuroscience

Describe the word 'behavior' to a friend. Piece of cake, right? Now, try explaining what behavioral neuroscience means. Well that sounds more like a tongue twister, doesn't it? It's not so bad, though. Neuroscience is the study of the brain and its functions. Although we often think of behavior as somewhat separate from our body, the two are closely related. In fact, the brain is what causes us to behave in certain ways, and behavioral neuroscience is a bridge in understanding the relationship. Behavioral neuroscience then, is the study of how a person's brain influences that person's behavior. We'll look more closely at several fields of behavioral neuroscience, so you can get a better idea of the field.

Learning and Memory

We realize that it is harder to study for a big test when we're tired, but have you ever wondered why this is true? Multiple areas can be included under the category of behavioral neuroscience. Learning and memory are two major topics of behavioral neuroscience. Learning and memory include finding out just why fatigue affects learning as well as understanding why people experience permanent memory loss, which is currently a large focus within the field. Dementia is a disease that causes people to forget important information about themselves and their surroundings. It is progressive, so it starts out slowly and continues to get worse with time. It is hard to imagine that you could eventually forget your children, your home address, or even your own name. Unfortunately, however, this is what occurs within the brain of a person suffering from dementia. Researchers in the field of behavioral neuroscience hope to find out how dementia develops and how it might be prevented in the future.

Sensorimotor Processing

The word sensorimotor describes how we experience the world around us through our senses and movement. Sensorimotor processing is another area of behavioral neuroscience, which refers to how the brain functions to help us experience the world. Many people who suffer from autism have a hard time integrating sound, touch, and smell within their environment. Those who suffer from autism sometimes rock back and forth, which is thought to be a way to soothe themselves when they feel overwhelmed by sensory cues in their environment. There are also alternative ideas about rocking behavior, which continue to be researched by behavioral neuroscientists.

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