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What is Physiological Psychology?

What is Physiological Psychology?

July 18, 2024

Although the Physiological Psychology is developed strictly in the late nineteenth century Based on a text by Wilhelm Wundt entitled Principles of Physiological Psychology, this field of study has its roots with the ancient Greeks, who were already seeking to elucidate what makes us so unique.

Although philosophers like Aristotle thought that the brain served only to cool the blood, maintaining that the mind resided in the heart, figures such as Hippocrates and Galen offered clearer scenarios about the importance of the brain over behavior.

Galen, a Greek doctor (129 - 200 AD) would consider the brain as such an important organ that he came to dissect cows, sheep, pigs, cats and dogs just to study it.

Physiological Psychology after the Scientific Revolution

Closer in the line of time, in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the intellectual positions related to physics and mathematics maintained a central axis in the study of behavior . A young René Descartes, fascinated by the hidden mechanisms that moved the statues of the Royal Gardens in the West of Paris, traced his theory about the functioning of the body around these technological devices.

In his mind, the pressurized water that moved the mobile statues was replaced by the cerebrospinal fluid, the cylinders by muscles, and the valve by the pineal gland. This would cause more men of his time to postulate new models around the functioning of the human body.

The discoveries of Galvani

The Italian physiologist Luigi Galvani gave a blow to the way in which the system proposed by Descartes had been understood , upon discovering that stimulating the nerve of a frog caused the contraction of the muscle to which it was attached.

He observed that the brain does not inflate the muscles by sending them pressurized fluid through the nerves ; the functioning of the nervous system was not so simple and mechanical. This was a vital contribution to the state of knowledge regarding the physiology of behavior.

Johannes Müller

Johannes Müller was another key figure for the birth of physiological psychology; his work for experimentation by extirpating and isolating the organs of animals on which he made a thorough analysis of his responses by exposing them to various chemical substances would reach explain that the nerves are not only motors, but also parts of a sensor system .

His greatest contribution was precisely his doctrine of specific nerve energies: the quality of sensation does not depend on the stimulus that affects the senses but on the type of nerve fiber that intervenes in perception.

An example of this is that the electrical stimuli applied to the optic nerves will only cause light sensations.

Pierre Florens and Paul Broca

Müller's mode was also shared by Pierre Flourens and Paul Broca , who experienced directly in the organ through different techniques.

Flourens, a French physiologist of the nineteenth century considered the founder of the experimental science of the brain, examined the behavior of various animals after extirpating various parts of the brain and conclusively demonstrated that those parts of the removed organ were responsible for the affected function; in this way, an animal whose cerebellum is removed will have problems with motor coordination.

Years later, Paul Broca used principles similar to those of Flourens , but with specific patients, those with speech problems. In this way, he discovered in postmortem studies that most of his patients (with the exception of one) had damage to the third left frontal gyrus.

Broca reported 25 cases with these alterations that affected the left hemisphere. The successes of Broca were a great impulse for other characters such as Wernicke will study the neuroanatomical bases related to language , and keep the contributions related to the study of behavior. Thanks to these contributions, among other things, we know what logic is behind the aphasias.

Physiological Psychology today

Currently, physiological psychologists are based on experimentation, and use both generalization and reduction to explain behavior.

Physiological Psychology It has a multidisciplinary nature and is strengthened by sources such as medicine, biology, chemistry, etc. . Finally, mention should also be made of contributions such as Ramón y Cajal, Francisco Varela, Mark Rosenzweig, Arnold Leiman, among others.Together, they created the fundamental bases for the development of this science.

Bibliographic references:

  • Rosenzweig, M & Leiman, A. (1992) Physiological Psychology. Spain: Mc Graw Hill.
  • Sagan, Carl. 1986. Broca's Brain: Reflections on the Romance of Science. New York: Ballantine Books.
  • Kandel, E.R .; Schwartz, J.H .; Jessell, T.M. (2001). Principles of Neuroscience. Madrid: McGraw Hill.
  • Carlson, Neil. (2006). Physiology of Behavior, Madrid, Pearson Education.


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