Biology and Behavior Term Paper

Excerpt from Term Paper :

Biology of Behavior

A Multipolar Neuron

The Limbic System

Behavior is the range of mannerisms and actions that an organism makes, and is seen in conjunction with the environment or themselves. Their environment includes the inanimate items in their physical world, and also the organisms and systems around them. Artificial entities and systems can also exhibit behaviors, as behavior is not strictly the domain of single, individual organisms. There is a strong relationship between behavior in biology, in two ways. There are biological components to the physical world that create expected behaviors in organisms, and there are also genetic and biological components that belong to each specific organism and that are used by those organisms to make sense of their world and to react to it in ways that provide them with what they need and help protect them from harm (Flint, Greenspan, & Kendler, 2010). Behaviors are not always successful in these endeavors, but biology does play a significant part in what drives these organisms toward certain behaviors.

Neural communication is among the most important of the biological points to be noted when it comes to behavior (Peters, Palay, & Webster, 1991). This type of communication takes place between nerve cells, which use electrical impulses and chemical signals to transmit information (Peters, Palay, & Webster, 1991). The neurons move between one another via synapses, and they link up with one another so they can create neural networks. They are among the core components of the nervous system of organisms, and make up the spinal cord and brain in the central nervous system and the ganglia in the peripheral nervous system (Plomin, et al., 2012). Different types of neurons provide different things to the body. Some provide sensory input, others affect muscle contractions, and still others are related to the glands. Neurons strongly influence the organism to which they belong, because they produce sensations and other information the body reacts to.

Figure 1.1 -- A Multipolar Neuron

Those reactions to the neurons and their impulses throughout the body help to make up behavior. The autonomic nervous system and the limbic system also affect the behavior of an organism. In the autonomic nervous system, issues such as breathing and heart rate are controlled (Markowitsch & Staniloiu, 2011). This is the area triggered when a person has anxiety or a panic attack, for example, because the "fight or flight" response comes to the forefront of the organism's conscious and affects that organism's behavior. That organism may run, freeze, or exhibit another type of behavior that is unexpected or not "in character" with what it would normally do. The limbic system is part of the brain, and includes the olfactory bulbs, amygdala, hippocampus and other structures that are used to help determine how an organism reacts to various stimuli (Plomin, et al., 2012). The olfactory bulbs, for example, are affected by smells that are drawn in through the nose. Those smells can evoke feelings and reactions that, in turn, can affect the behavior of the organism which inhaled that scent.

Figure 1.1 -- The Limbic System

The Value of Human Biology on Behavior

Behavior has evolved in many ways, based on various theories, and much of that behavior has come from the function of neurotransmitters that take sensory input from external and internal sources and transmit that to the brain so the organism receiving the information can decide what to do with the information provided to it. Over time, human beings have gone from very rudimentary reactions to stimuli and input to more refined beliefs and opinions (Kandel, Schwartz, & Jessell, 2000). They have also learned things like coping mechanisms, which can be used to retrain them to handle situations where their behavior may have been-based too strongly on the reaction from their autonomic nervous system and not strongly enough on accurate information from both external and internal inputs (Markowitsch & Staniloiu, 2011). In order to more fully understand issues regarding biology and behavior, there are two questions that need to be answered. These are:

Question 1: Why are psychologists concerned with human biology?

Question 2: How do neurotransmitters influence behavior?

Problem Statement

Answering questions about behavior and biology, and making sure those answers are put to good use, is a very important part of understanding why humans behave as they do and how they choose the behaviors in which they engage. The problem with biology and behavior is that many people do not understand the connection, so they fail to realize that they can use what they know about biology to adjust how they behave in certain circumstances. While they cannot change their biology, they can change how much they allow certain biological markers and reactions to affect them and how they react to specific situations in which they find themselves and particular things that happen in their lives.

Literature Review

Reviewing the literature on any topic is an important way to gain information. Here, literature on behavior and biology will be examined in an effort to show how closely it is tied together. When a person is born, most of his or her biology is already "set" in the sense that it comes from the DNA and genetics of his or her parents (Plomin, et al., 2012). Those genetics are a big part of who that person will become in the future, but biology does not provide the entire picture of a person (Markowitsch & Staniloiu, 2011). There are also environmental factors that have to be looked at. Even though environment may seem completely unrelated to biology, in fact it is not. Biology and environment are tied together, because how a person reacts to his or her environment and the stimuli it produces is related in large part to that person's biology (Flint, Greenspan, & Kendler, 2010). There are other factors, as well, but none as strong as the ones that are biologically based (Flint, Greenspan, & Kendler, 2010). People who are genetically predisposed to certain conditions -- such as the example of anxiety mentioned earlier -- often have a stronger reaction to their world than others.

That is also true of people who have reactions based on physical sensations, as some people are more sensitive in that way. They may have a lower tolerance for pain, or they may have a reduced sensitive to taste, touch, or smell (Peters, Palay, & Webster, 1991). In those kinds of cases, they are going to react differently to their environment than someone who would be considered "normal" in that regard, and their unique reactions are all related to biology (Flint, Greenspan, & Kendler, 2010). Each person is biologically very similar and very unique at the same time, and that makes them react in ways that are predictable but also not as predictable (Peters, Palay, & Webster, 1991). In other words, a person who is anxious over something will react in a fight or flight manner most of the time, but each person's interpretation of that that means for them and how they cope with it is going to be slightly different. That makes them unique, but they still have a basic grounding in certain types of behaviors that they may choose from when something takes place in their external world.


Overall, biology has an important place in the study of behavior, and answering questions about how it works and why can help advance the field of psychology. Psychologists are interested in biology because they know it can affect the way a person does something. The more a psychologist knows about a person's genetic makeup and biology, the more he or she can use that information to determine what can be done to help a person and why that person may be exhibiting the particular behaviors that are being seen. While there are certainly environmental factors that play a role in what brings a person to a psychologist or what behaviors that person may be concerned about, some of the issues people in that situation face are based on the fact that they are biologically predisposed to certain things and they may not be able to easily let those things go or choose a different path for their behavior because biology is strong. Neurotransmitters influence behavior through the sending of messages as impulses, and those messages affect how a person reacts to something in his or her environment. Among the reasons people have different reactions in the same situation is the message their neurotransmitters send to them and how they interpret those messages.

Part two: Application Issues

There are numerous examples that can be considered when it comes to daily situations and how they relate to behavior and biology. These tie in with the theoretical framework surrounding the biology of behavior and the ways in which every person's biology has an effect on the type of behavior they exhibit. By examining behavior in examples of real-world scenarios, understanding that behavior becomes easier and less complicated for the people who have those behaviors along…

Sources Used in Document:


Flint, J., Greenspan, R.J., Kendler, K.S. (2010). How genes influence behavior. NY: Oxford University Press.

Kandel E.R., Schwartz, J.H., & Jessell, T.M. (2000). Principles of neural science, (4th ed.). NY: McGraw-Hill.

Markowitsch, H.J., & Staniloiu, A (2011). Amygdala in action: Relaying biological and social significance to autobiographical memory. Neuropsychologia, 49(4): 718 -- 733.

Peters, A., Palay, S.L., & Webster, H, D. (1991). The fine structure of the nervous system, (3rd ed.). NY: Oxford University Press.

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