In this research, the core question of biological psychology about the interconnection of bodily systems and mental operations is investigated, considering its different aspects. First, the general problem of the relevance of the body-mind connection is discussed, considering its philosophical and scientific foundations. Second, the nature of the connection of the body and mind as sub-systems within a general system is explored. Third, the impact of the external stimuli on the mind-body system is examined. A literature review related to these three matters is provided, followed by a general discussion and conclusions about the findings.
At present, the studies in biological psychology also referred to as behavioral neuroscience, are at the forefront of psychological research. This field connects mental processes and states to organic principles of body operation, and aims to explain emotions, behaviors, as well as mental illnesses and disorders on the basis of physiology. The field represents an interdisciplinary approach, and, often, the results of modern studies on neuroscience bridge the gap between previously disconnected areas. In addition, the understanding of biological principles that underlie mental processes leads to a new approach where the mind-body system is perceived as an entity of non-dual nature. Sometimes, this approach is defined as holistic; although often this term may be connected with the area of pseudoscience, there is a tendency of blurring the borders between traditional views and so-called alternative theories. Currently, it is a time for re-examining and re-evaluating earlier established principles in psychology, biology, and medicine.
The difficulty of approaching the problems that lie in the field of biopsychology is a result of two factors. The first is the lack of scientific methods of examination of the functions of the brain. For instance, while many of the currently investigated problems are connected to perception, the present capacities of research equipment are often not enough to provide the necessary evidence. The second reason is that there is no homogeneity of mental and biological processes in different individuals. These factors make the research more complicated, although at the same time serve as the driver for the progress, both in technological and theoretical aspects.
In this paper, the core matter of biological psychology, such as the interconnection of biological systems and mental operations, such as, for example, vision and hearing, will be investigated. Also, the interrelation between the systems (body-mind) will be studied, as well as the influence of the external factors of stress on the regulation of bodily tissues and mental health.
In accordance with the three main concerns of this research, the examined sources may be grouped into three subject areas as follows:
- a general discussion about biological and mental systems (body-mind connection) as the main concept of biological psychology, its philosophical foundation, and the existing misconceptions in this field;
- the interconnection of biological and mental factors as the sub-systems of the bodily system;
- the influence of external stimuli on the operation of bodily systems.
Connection of Biological Processes and Mental Operations: General Discussion
Until the last several decades, there was a prevailing conception in psychology about the unintelligible nature of the human mind. Jasanoff (2018) describes it as a cerebral mystique, referring to the false idealization of the mind, and treating it as separate from the body entity. He discussed that the roots of it lie in the paradigm of Western philosophy based on the dualism of the mind and body.
There are five misconceptions about the operation of the mind described by Jasanoff in his work The Biological Mind: How Brain, Body, and Environment Collaborate to Make Us Who We Are. The first is the treatment of the mind as an abiotic machine, with no connection to the biological principles of the body (Jasanoff, 2018). The second is too much complexification of the mind, so it is stated that its operations cannot be studied. The third is compartmentalization, the view that stresses the localization of cognitive functions without offering deeper explanations of them, which leads to shallow interpretation. The fourth and fifth are related to the absence of the capacity of the mind to influence the performance of the body and its ability to exist autonomously.
One of the major difficulties in modern biopsychology is discussed in the article “The Nature of Primary Consciousness. A New Synthesis” by Feinberg and Mallatt. They talk about the existing explanatory gap in neuroscience when the objective evidence of the physical and psychical processes has to coexist with its subjective perception and interpretation by an individual. Such a gap, as they notice, represents “something different about the biology of consciousness when compared to other biological phenomena” (Feinberg & Mallatt, 2016, p. 114). Along with it, in their view, “to bridge or close the gap with a natural explanation” is an ultimate goal of the “science of consciousness” (Feinberg & Mallatt, 2016, p. 114). Thus, the authors proclaim the importance of the research in biological psychology as the advent of a new epistemological paradigm.
The second subject of the investigation is the coexistence of the traditional and alternative approaches to the mind-body connection and, in the applied field, the relations of allopathy and alternative medicine. Dunaeva (2016), in her article “Study of Bodily Awareness During a Psychological Inquiry,” discussed the method of treating mental disorders through examining bodily sensations and illnesses. She states that “physical problems often manifest unexpressed hidden inner conflicts … Awareness of bodily sensation as a tool for therapy” (Dunaeva, 2016, p. 793). For example, after examination, a person who suffered from syringoma on the neck appeared to be affected by the memories of the death of his friend in a car accident, when he broke his neck. Micozzi (2018), in Fundamentals of Complementary, Alternative, and Integrative Medicine, holds the same “holistic” approach to the “body as a person” (p. 6). Among all, he discusses in detail the mechanism of the placebo effect and its underlying theoretical principle.
External Stimuli and the Operation of the Bodily Systems
In this subject area, two sources that represent the positive and negative influence of external factors on the body and mind were chosen. The first is a medical intervention with neural stimulation using electrical charge for the treatment of functional disorders. As Nag and Thakor (2016) state, “experimental investigations on nerves, both peripheral and visceral, and on spinal cord and brain, have demonstrated potential clinical therapies to restore the function of their neurological disorders” (p. 63). The therapy may be used for the “restoration of the brain, eye, ear, spinal cord, nerve, and muscle function, hearing, vision, movement, tactile perception” (Nag & Thakor, 2016, p. 63). The intervention induces a functional response of the tissues previously unresponsive.
Eskandari et al. (2018) discuss the impact of electric and magnetic fields on bodily systems, concluding that this influence is negative. The lowering of the melatonin level caused by it results in “disorders of sleep, metabolism, hormone production, and immune system activity” (Eskandari et al., 2018, p. 5). Among other negative outcomes, there could be disorders of vision and hearing, such as the hearing of a false voice.
Discussion and Conclusion
The study of the literature has allowed making several important conclusions about the subject of investigation. First, the presence of controversies and debates within this branch of science was indicated. There is a multiplicity of opinions, based on the technological imperfection of the research and the diversity of the results. For example, as Feinberg and Mallatt (2016) state, the pathway for smell does not differ from other senses that relay through the thalamus. Moreover, there is also an anatomical difference between human individuals. Such non-homogeneity prevents forming the theoretical foundation of the processes.
Second, at present, the tendency to accept the theories and methods of treatment that previously were considered inappropriate and non-scientific may be observed. The reason for it is the evidence received through the experiments and observations of neuroscience. This field, indeed, is considered to be at the forefront of science, bearing a great potential for future discoveries.
Third, it is evident that the mind-body system of a human does not exist separately from other elements of the world. The influence of the external factors on its operation is considerable and permanent. Such impact may be negative and positive; the latter is enabled in the case of the controlled application of the stimuli. This application has to be based on a proper theoretical foundation about the interconnection of physical, biological, and mental processes in the human body.
In general, it could be stated that the present state of the development of biological psychology is characterized by active research that continually brings new results. These results often cause the reconsideration of previously established theories, sometimes even leading to their rejection. This process is a necessary stage on the way to forming a theoretical basis in the new field of science that seems to be potentially able to answer multiple questions about the human body and mind.
Dunaeva, V. (2018). Study of bodily awareness during a psychological inquiry. PEOPLE: International Journal of Social Sciences, 4(2), 793-799.
Eskandari, M., Kasavandi, A., Kasavandi, O., Zadeh, M. A. M., Tarbezagh, M. S., & Akbarzadeh, I. (2018). Effect of electric and magnetic fields on biological systems. Health Biotechnology and Biopharma 1(4), 1-18. Web.
Feinberg, T. E., & Mallatt, J. (2016). The nature of primary consciousness. A new synthesis. Consciousness and Cognition, 43, 113–127.
Jasanoff, A. (2018). The biological mind: How brain, body, and environment collaborate to make us who we are. New York, NY: Basic Books.
Micozzi, M. S. (2018). Fundamentals of complementary, alternative, and integrative medicine. New York, NY: Elsevier Health Sciences.
Nag, S., & Thakor, N. V. (2016). Implantable neurotechnologies: Electrical stimulation and applications. Medical & Biological Engineering & Computing, 54(1), 63–76.