"In another part of Chicago stood the institute for Nuclear
Research, in which men may have had theories upon the essential worth of
human nature but were half ashamed of them, since no quantitative
instrument had yet been designed to measure it." -Isaac Asimov,
"Pebble in the sky", 1958.
2.1 What is behavioural neuroscience?
Much of what follows is quoted directly from dr.
Stephen Kent's lecture notes.
Behavioural neuroscience is the study of the neural basis of behaviour,
with one of the main goals being to understand behaviour and experience
in term of their biological substrates.
Psychology is the scientific study of behaviour. Psychobiology
is the study of the biological basis of behaviour.
2.1.1 Premises behind behavioural neuroscience
- Man is an animal evolved from the other animals
- Injury to the brain can disrupt sensations, movements and thought
- Lesions to particular brain areas cause specific behavioural deficits
- The brain operates like a machine and follows the laws of nature
2.1.2 Imaging techniques
Functional brain imaging
- CAT -- computer assisted tomography
- PET -- positron emission tomography
- fMRI -- functional magnetic ressonance imaging
2.1.3 Human versus non-human subjects
Humans generally follows instructions, they can report their subjective
experiences, and they are cheaper to use than animals.
An animal's brain and its behaviour is generally simpler than a human's.
Insights arise from a comparative approach. It is possible to conduct research
that cannot be conducted in humans due to ethical reasons.
The Animal Ethics Committee has a principle of following the three Rs:
Replacement, Reduction, Refinement. Animals are only used for worthwhile
experiments that promise to advance our knowledge of the nervous system. All
necessary steps are taken to minimise pain and distress experienced by the
experimental animals. And all possible alternatives to the use of animals are