Psychology - Biological approach - Methodology

  • Created by: jkav
  • Created on: 10-05-15 11:35


1. Brain scanning 

The biological approach assumes that behaviour can be explained in terms of activity in the brain and nervous system. Therefore, biological psycgologists seek methods that allow them to view brain activity. 

In the past 30 years, much more precise methods of studying the brain have been developed.

CAT scans (computed axial tomography) - These involve taking a series of x-rays and combining them to form a comprehensive tow or three dimensional picture of the area being scanned. Usually a dye is injected into the patient as a contrast material and then he or she is placed in the cylindrical CAT scan machine that takes the pictures.

MRI scans (magnetic resonance imaging) - These involve the use of a magnetic field that causes the atoms o the brain to change their alignment when the magnet is on and emit various radio signals when the magnet is turned off. A detector reads the signals and uses them to map the structre of the brain.

A classic study by Maguire et al (2000) used MRI scans to demonstrate that taxi drivers had larger hippocampi than non-taxi drivers, supporting the view that this area of the brain is important in spartical memorieas.

Functional MRI (fMRI), provides both anatomical and functional information by taking repeated images of the brain in action.


  • CAT scans are useful for revealing abnormal structures in the brain such as tumours, or structual damage. The quality of the images provided by the CAT scan is much higher than that of traditional X-rays.
  • MRI gives a more detailed image of the soft issue in the brain than do CAT scans, and involves passing an extremely strong magnetic field through the patient rather than using X-rays. MRI is best suited for cases


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