Biological Approach - Model Essays:


1. (a) Outline two assumptions of the biological approach (4):

Different aspects of behaviour are controlled by different parts of the brain. For example, the cerebral cortex (the outer most layer of the brain) is repsonsible for our higher cogntive functions such as memory, perception, thought and language. An example is a case study that looked at a man called Phineas Gage who suffered damage to the occipital lobe which can affect sight and damage to the frontal love which can affect personality.

The activity of our brain is controlled by neurotransmitters so that the levels of these neurotransmitters affect our behaviour. Examples of important neurotransmitteres include serotonin, deopamine and GABA. Imbalances of dopamine are implicated in schizophrenia, while imbalances in serotonin are implicated in depression.

1. (b) Describe Selye's General Adaptation Syndrome (8):

Selye exposed rats to a variety of 'stressors' including cold, surgical injury and injections with drugs such as morphine. Selye's research led him to conclude that when animals are exposed to unpleasant stimuli, they display a universal response to all stressors. He called this the General Adapation Syndrome (GAS):

The three stages of the GAS are alarm, resistance and exhaustion:

In the alarm stage, a threat is recognised. The hypothalamus in the brain triggers the production of adrenaline which gives rise to the fight or flight response - increased heart rate, blood pressure, sweaty palms etc. Cortisol (the 'stress hormone' is released).

In the resistance stage, if the stress continues then a means of coping needs to be found. The body is adpating to the demands of the environment but at the same time, resources are slowly depleting. The body appears to be coping but, psychologically speaking it's deteriorating.

The body's resources are depleted to the point whre it can no longer maintain normal functioning.This is the exhaustion stage, the prolonged action of cortisol is believed to be a particular problem. The endocrine glands, kidneys, heart and other internal organs may be damaged as a consequence of the increased strain on the body. It is in this stage, that what Selye termed 'disease of adaptation' occur, including coronary heart disease, ulcers and mental health problems such as depression.

2. Describe how the biological approach has been aplied to either Psychosurgery or Chemostherapy (12 marks):

According to the biological approach our mental fuctioning is determined by our brain and it's biochemistry (especially neurotransmitters). Mental health problems are caused by imbalances in the biochemistry of the brain. Therefore, the role of the therapist is to diagnose the problem in the same way as for physical illnesses, so that the apporiate drug can be prescribed. The aim of chemotherapy is to correct the biochemical imbalances in the brian that cause mental health problems using drugs.

There are 3 types of psychoactive drugs:

  1. Antipsychotics – These treat psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia where the patient has little insight into their condition and can no longer properly connect with reality. Conventional antipsychotics are used to combat the positive symptoms of schizophrenia


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