Abnormal psychology studies psychological disorders and ways to improve the lives of those affected by them (Nevid et al., 2021). There are several perspectives on the pathology of such disorders. However, contemporary theories include a biological perspective on the issue, which connects the pathology to the deviations within the nervous system.
Consequently, numerous drugs used for the treatment of psychological pathologies such as anxiety, depression, and schizophrenia are designed to affect certain neurotransmitters in the brain (Nevid et al., 2021). The reason for that is simple. The condition of neurotransmitter systems in the brain is correlated with the development of abnormal behavior or mental illnesses.
The study of the brain – a major organ of the central nervous system, is necessary for broad comprehension of mental disorders.
Brain Abnormalities and Mental Disorders
The brain could be divided into 3 sections: The hindbrain which includes the medulla, pons, and cerebellum. Midbrain contains nerve pathways that connect the hindbrain and forebrain. The forebrain consists of the thalamus, hypothalamus, basal ganglia, and cerebrum.
Abnormalities within the brain structure or functioning may cause various disorders that are typically seen as abnormal behavior. For example:
The cerebral cortex is the surface of the cerebrum which is convoluted with valleys and ridges. It is the central processor of the brain and contains the sense of oneself along with consciousness. Researchers found abnormalities in parts of the cerebral cortex and limbic system among patients with schizophrenia which points to the pathological correlation.
Hypothalamus is a small brain part that is essential for vital bodily functions such as concentration of blood fluids, body temperature regulation, reproduction, and emotional well-being. Irregularities in the hypothalamus may cause various sleep disorders.
Basal ganglion is a part of the brain which plays a major role in coordination and regulating postural movements. Huntington’s disease which causes disturbances of mood, paranoia, and dementia is associated with deterioration of the basal ganglia.
The brain facilitates the release of nerve impulses which allow neurons to communicate with each other to acquire, process, and respond to the information. The communication involves the release of chemical substances – neurotransmitters through synapses – microscopic gaps that divide the terminal buttons of one neuron from receptors (Nevid et al., 2021).. Thus, neuron spikes lead to the release of neurotransmitters from multiple synapses, which communicate with other neurons.
Neurons could be considered information messengers. They utilize electrical impulses and chemical substances as signals to transmit information between various sections of the brain, as well as the brain with other parts of the nervous system (U.S. DHHS, n.d.). Everything associated with human thought such as thinking and feeling depends on the function of neurons and their support cells.
Neurons consist of three basic parts such as a cell body and two extensions that are named an axon and a dendrite (U.S. DHHS, n.d.). Within the cell body of the neuron, a nucleus could be seen. It manages the cell’s activities and has its genetic material. The axon which is shaped as a long tail transmits messages from the cell. The branch-like structures of a neuron are called dendrites. They receive messages from their cell.
The nervous system of a human has numerous neurotransmitters. It is possible to count over 40 types (QBI, 2017). Some of the major neurotransmitters are acetylcholine, dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin.
Acetylcholine is a neurotransmitter that is responsible for control over the formation of memories and muscle contraction (Nevid et al., 2021). Patients that have diminished levels of Acetylcholine often suffer from Alzheimer’s disease.
Dopamine is responsible for mental processes such as emotions, learning, memory, and regulation of muscle contraction (Nevid et al., 2021). Irregularities associated with dopamine transmission are responsible for the development of schizophrenia.
Norepinephrine’s functions are involved in learning and memory (Nevid et al., 2021). Quite often, irregularities within the transmission of norepinephrine are linked with mood disorders similar to depression.
Serotonin is involved in the regulation of satiety, sleep, and mood condition (Nevid et al., 2021). The deviations within serotonin levels may implicate depression and eating disorders.
Endorphins and Hormones
The brain is part of the central nervous system that contains endorphins and hormones. Endorphins are a group of peptides that are made by the pituitary gland and central nervous system (McMurray, 2019). They affect the brain’s opiate receptors. Endorphins could be considered neurotransmitters and hormones. They are involved in the increase of various feelings associated with pleasure and well-being. In addition, their functions include reduction of pain and discomfort.
Endorphin deficiency is commonly associated with feelings of depression, anxiety, and irritation (McMurray, 2019). Hormones similar to neurotransmitters act as chemical messengers of the body. They travel through the bloodstream to tissues and organs. The effect of hormones is seen over time and involved in various processes such as growth and development. Reproductive hormones and stress hormones such as estrogen and progesterone may affect mental health by increasing anxiousness and irritation.