Biology is an important part of a psychology course. Psychobiology is the area of psychology that focuses on the biological foundations of behavior and mental processes. The effects of drug addictions, behavioral disorders, sleep disturbances, memory, alterations in conscious awareness, and pain are all examples of the necessity of psychobiology during the biology chapters. Neurotransmitters are chemicals released by the synaptic vesicles that travel across the synaptic space and affect adjacent neurons. Major neurotransmitters can affect everything from movement to schizophrenia to memory. Acetylcholine affects arousal, attention, memory, motivation, and movement. But too much of this neurotransmitter can cause spasms and tremors while too little may cause paralysis and torpor. Dopamine, an inhibitor, inhibits a wide range of behavior and emotions including pleasure. It is also implicated in schizophrenia and Parkinson’s disease.
Another inhibitor, serotonin, reduces virtually all activities. It is important for sleep onset, mood, and eating behavior. Norepinephrine affects arousal, wakefulness, learning, memory, and mood. Endorphins are an extremely important neurotransmitter. They inhibit the transmission of pain messages, or in other words, endorphins are the body’s natural painkiller. Drug abuse can alter every aspect of that person’s life. Substance abuse is defined as a pattern of drug use that diminishes the ability to fulfill responsibilities at home or at work or school, that results in the repeated use of a drug in dangerous situations, or that leads to legal difficulties related to drug use.
Depressants, such as alcohol, barbiturates, and opium-derived substances, slow down behavior or cognitive processes. The social costs of alcohol abuse are high. Alcohol is involved in more than two–thirds of all fatal automobile accidents, two–thirds of all murders, two–thirds of all spouse beatings, and more than half of all cases of violent child abuse. Barbiturates, or “downers” as they are commonly called, are strikingly similar to alcohol. Both cause slurred speech, loss of inhibition, increases in aggression, and poor motor coordination. Opiates include drugs such as heroin and morphine. These drugs produce feelings of euphoria, well–being, and relaxation with severe withdrawal symptoms after becoming addicted. The withdrawal symptoms consist of prolonged periods of sleep lasting up to 12 hours, severe cramps, vomiting, and diarrhea, convulsive shaking and kicking, as well as profuse sweating.
Often heroin addicts need to engage in criminal activities to obtain the money need to support their highly expensive addiction. Stimulants are drugs, including amphetamines and cocaine, which stimulate the sympathetic nervous system and produce feelings of optimism and boundless energy. Amphetamines resemble epinephrine and are used to treat asthma and sometimes narcolepsy. Evidence suggests that even short–term excessive use of the drug may produce long–term harmful effects on sleep, mood, appetite, and impulsiveness by damaging the neuron connections between lower brain centers and the cortex. The effects of cocaine mirror those of amphetamines, although they do not last long. Psychological effects of cocaine include stimulation of the sympathetic nervous system, an increase in heart rate and blood pressure, and constriction of the blood vessels.
Sleep serves both physical and psychological needs. Dreaming is important because it may produce new synaptic connections, which are involved with learning. Older children and adults spend one to two hours, or 20 percent, in R.E.M. sleep while 50 percent of babies sleep is R.E.M. sleep. R.E.M. sleep is a sleep stage characterized by rapid eye movement and increased dreaming. Insomnia is a sleep disorder characterized by difficulty falling asleep or remaining asleep throughout the night. Most episodes of insomnia stem from stressful events and are temporary. It can also be a symptom of depression. Narcolepsy is a hereditary sleep disorder characterized by sudden nodding off during the day and sudden loss of muscle tone following moments of emotional excitement. Another symptom of this disorder is an immediate entry into R.E.M. sleep, which produces frightening hallucinations that are dreams that the person is experiencing while partly awake. Biology is a needed unit in psychology. Many things can alter or affect a person’s mood or everyday life, whether it is drug addiction or behavioral disorders. Psychobiology is a necessity in this course.