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Psychology/brain and behaviour


QUESTION: How much in psychology is focusing on the brain and how much is focusing on the behaviours? Would studying the human brain actually help me understand behaviour? I have been talking with psychologist but they never really speak about the brain with me.
I know that a psychologist doesn't want to make an fMRI just to understand the patient (and it would be too expensive).
But please tell me some of your wisdom.
What should be your focus if you want to study psychology?

ANSWER: Hank, there is a relationship between the brain and behavior.  The brain regulates behavior - at the same time, behavior and experience change the brain.  Studying the brain will help you understand certain kinds of behavior, such as learning.  However, when it comes to understanding mental health issues, the state of brain science is in it's early stages.  Doing an fMRI on a patient with a psychological problem would not yield any useful information, since 1) we don't know what changes psychological problems cause in the structure of the brain and 2) we would not be able to prescribe treatment based on the results of the fMRI.    The study of psychology is quite broad.  So, I can't answer your last question.  If you want to know how to understand your own behavior, I suggest that you read a basic psychology textbook.

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QUESTION: Could studying biological psychology be what I am searching for? I want to study both behaviour and the biology/brain. I do think neuropsychiatry sound interesting since I am interested in Autism, ADHD and such diagnoses. I don't really want to much neuroscience (since psychology is also interesting and important for me).
Could you recomend biological psychology?

I think either biological psychology or neuropsychiatry would be a good fit - there is also neuropsychology.  The difference between these two courses of study is that training in biopsych is research oriented, and you earn a Ph.D.  By contrast, neuropsychiatry is a medical specialty, it is clinically oriented and you earn an M.D.   Neuropsych is a clinical training specialty which involves diagnosis of learning and neuropsychological disorders such as autism and ADHD.  Neuropsychology programs confer the Ph.D.  

It really depends on whether you want to focus on research or working with patients.


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Katherine ONeill


I can answer academic questions about psychology. I am not a clinician (therapist), I am a research psychologist with expertise in biopsychology, general psychology, cognitive psychology, research methods and psychopharmacology.


I have 25 years experience as a researcher in health behavior, biopsychology and psychopharmacology.

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Ph.D. Experimental Psychology, University of Rhode Island, 1983. Post doctoral fellow dept of psychiatry, New York University Medical Center, 1983-1984. Post doctoral fellow, dept of pharmacology, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, 1984-1985.

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