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Describe how the physiological approach can explain a behaviour/phenomenon. (4 marks)
Describe how the physiological approach can explain the abilities of split-brain patients.
The physiological approach assumes that the abilities of split-brain patients are significantly
determined by individuals' brain structure and function. The abilities of the split-brain patients are
different from normal individuals in the study of Sperry because their corpus callosum has been
severed. This means that information from one hemisphere cannot be transferred to the other
hemisphere. If you place an object in the right hand of the split-brain patient then they will be able to
identify the object in speech and writing. Whereas if the same object was placed in the left hand of a
split-brain patient then they will make wild guesses and claim that they are not holding anything.
Normal people can identify an object regardless of the hand they are using because their corpus
callosum is intact.
Describe how the physiological approach can explain the experience of dreaming.
The physiological approach will explain that dreaming is experienced as a result of the physiological
changes in the human brain, i.e. electrical activity. The brain is more active when asleep than in
comparison to when someone is awake. The study of Dement and Kleitman demonstrates an
association between REM and sleeping. More participants recalled a higher incidence of dreaming
during REM periods than NREM periods. There were some instances where dreaming occurred during
NREM sleep but this is explained by assuming that the memory for a dream persisted for some time
and thus appeared to occur during NREM sleep. The study also demonstrated that a link between eye
movement patterns and the content of the dream. For example, one participant dreamt two people
throwing tomatoes at each other and their eye movements were horizontal.
Describe how the physiological approach can explain navigation.
The physiological approach would explain navigation with regards to brain structure and function. In
the study of Maguire, taxi drivers had a larger volume of grey matter in the posterior hippocampus in
the left and right hemisphere than in comparison to non-taxi drivers. This is because taxi drivers' job
is dependent on navigation skills and spatial memory and they had to acquire the knowledge in order
to get their license as a taxi driver. The role of the hippocampus is in relation to navigation and spatial
memory. The study demonstrates that brain structure can change as a result of an individual's
experiences. For example, the first main findings of the research were that the posterior hippocampi
of taxi drivers were significantly larger relative to those of control subjects and that the anterior
hippocampal region was larger in control subjects than in taxi drivers. The second main finding was
that hippocampal volume correlated with the amount of time spent as a taxi driver (positively in the
right posterior and negatively in the right anterior hippocampus).