Biological Psychology

Biological Psychology the two main pathways

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SAM Pathway Stages 1-2

1. Higher brain centres recognise stress and alert the hypothalamus.


2. The hypothalamus (in the brain) sends signals to arouse the sympathetic branch of the Autonomic Nervous System.

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SAM Pathway Stage 3-4


3. The arousal of the SNS causes the pupils to dilate, heart rate increases, digestive system shuts down and it triggers the adrenal medulla ( adrenal gland in the kidneys)

4. The adrenal medulla releases the hormones adrenaline and noradrenaline into the blood which maintain the fight or flight response.

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Hypothalamic - Pituitary- Adrenal (HPA) - Stages 1

1. Higher centres in the brain recognise stress and alert the Hypothalamus (in the brain) which sends signals to the Pituitary gland (which is within but not part of the brain).

2. The pituitary gland secretes the hormone ACTH (adrenocorticorophic hormone).

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HPA System Stage 3 + Effects of Cortisol

3. This hormone stimulates the adrenal cortex ( part of the adrenal gland near the kidneys) - this produces corticosteriod hormones e.g cortisol.

Cortisol - ensures sugar levels in the blood are maintained which provides us with energy. This has a negative effect as it suppresses the immune system possibly leading to illness.

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How are effects from the SAM stopped? (acute stres


 The Para-Sympathetic system calms the individual down and the effects begin to wear off, this usually happens after a few minutes. Returning the body to a state of Equilibrum.

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