What Is Biological Psychology?

Biological psychology, or biopsychology, is a field in which the mind-body connection is explored through scientific research and clinical practice. Researchers in this field study the biological basis of thoughts, emotions and behaviors. Read on to learn more about this subfield of psychology, educational options and potential careers. Schools offering Clinical Psychology degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Defining Biological Psychology

Alternative names of biopsychology, such as behavioral neuroscience and physiological biology, indicate a preliminary definition. Researchers in this field examine not only how biology - particularly the nervous system - affects behavior, but also how behaviors affect the brain. They conduct experiments, often using lab animals as a model for humans, to explore the interactions between the environment, behavior and physiology.

Physiology is the study of how all body processes function, including the electrical and chemical processes necessary for nervous system communication. When you study biopsychology, you examine memory, perception, cognition and behavioral disorders through the lens of physiology, neural biochemistry, biophysics and anatomy. Within the scope of this broad field, you may choose to focus on the biological underpinnings of human or animal behavior.

Important Career Facts About Psychologists

Required Education A doctorate or specialist degree is often necessary; a master's is acceptable for some positions
Job Outlook 12% overall growth over 2012-2022
Median Salary $92,110
Work Environment Many research psychologists work for educational institutions, government agencies and research organizations

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Research Areas and Methods

Biopsychology research employs sophisticated scientific methods and may focus on sensory perception, learning, language, psychiatric disorders, addiction, stress, sleep and memory disorders, among other areas. You may study the nervous system using techniques that include brain imaging, brain stimulation, neuropharmacology, genetic engineering and electrophysiological recording. As a prospective student, you may seek academic programs with faculty members conducting research in your areas of interest and collaborate in experiments to address issues including:

  • The biological basis of autism
  • The effects of hormones on motivation
  • The relationship between stress and mental illness
  • The functions of sleep

Educational Paths

Programs in biopsychology are available at the bachelor's, master's and doctoral degree levels. Majoring in biopsychology, you study animal behavior, learning, personality theory, physiological psychology, genetics and biochemistry. Statistics, research methods and laboratory courses in experimental psychology are also typically part of undergraduate programs. When you graduate, you may pursue a master's degree or doctoral program in fields including clinical psychology and behavioral neuroscience.

Most graduate biopsychology programs are Ph.D. programs that feature varied areas of specialization. As a graduate student, your advanced coursework may include developmental biopsychology, cognition and neuroscience. Training in a variety of research methods and techniques prepares you for opportunities to participate in experiments at your university's research institutes.

Career Options

Your studies in biopsychology can lead to careers in universities, pharmaceutical companies and government agencies. Many research and clinical positions require you to hold a doctorate. With clinical psychology training, you may work with patients in rehabilitation facilities and hospitals, focusing on the relationship between brain and behavior as a clinical neuropsychologist. Research-oriented careers include pharmaceutical researcher and neuroscientist.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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