Psychophysiology

Psychophysiology

Psychophysiology (from Greek _gr. ψῡχή, "psȳkhē", "breath, life, soul"; _gr. φύσις, "physis", "nature, origin"; and _gr. -λογία, "-logia") the branch of psychology that is concerned with the physiological bases of psychological processes. What used to be known as cognitive psychophysiology until the mid 1990's is currently called Cognitive neuroscience.

For example, psychologists are interested in why we may fear spiders and physiologists may be interested in the input/output system of the amygdala. A psychophysiologist will attempt to link the two. He might, for example, try to explain arachnophobia in terms of impulses coming in and out of the amygdala. However, psychophysiologists almost always study the psychological/physiological link in intact human subjects. While early psychophysiologists almost always examined the impact of psychological states on physiological system responses, since the 1970s, psychophysiologists also study the impact of physiological states and systems on psychological states. It is this perspective of studying the interface of mind and body that makes psychophysiologists most distinct.

Psychophysiology is different from physiological psychology in that psychophysiology looks at the way psychological activities produce physiological responses, while physiological psychology looks at the physiological mechanisms which lead to psychological activity. Historically, most psychophysiologists tended to examine the physiological responses and organ systems innervated by the autonomic nervous system. More recently, psychophysiologists have been equally, or potentially more, interested in the central nervous system, exploring cortical brain potentials such as the many types of event-related potentials (ERPs), brain waves, functional neuroimaging (fMRI), PET, MEG, etc.

A psychophysiologist may look at how exposure to a stressful situation will produce a result in the cardiovascular system such as a change in heart rate (HR), vasodilation/vasoconstriction, myocardial contractility, or stroke volume. A physiological psychologist may look at how one cardiovascular event may influence another cardiovascular or endocrine event, or how activation of one neural brain structure exerts excitatory activity in another neural structure which then induces an inhibitory effect in some other system. Often, physiological psychologists examine the effects that they study in infrahuman subjects using surgical or invasive techniques and processes.

Psychophysiology is closely related to the field of Neuroscience and Social neuroscience, which primarily concerns itself with relationships between psychological events and brain responses. Psychophysiology is also related to the medical discipline known as psychosomatics.

While psychophysiology was a discipline off the mainstream of psychological and medical science prior to roughly the 1960 and 1970s, more recently, psychophysiology has found itself positioned at the intersection of psychological and medical science, and its popularity and importance have expanded commensurately with the realization of the inter-relatedness of mind and body.

Commonly used measures

Many measures are part of modern psychophysiology including measures of brain activity such as ERPs, brain waves (electroencephalography, EEG), fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging), measures of skin conductance (skin conductance response, SCR; galvanic skin response, GSR), cardiovascular measures (heart rate, HR; beats per minute, BPM; heart rate variability, HRV; vasomotor activity), muscle activity (electromyography, EMG), changes in pupil diameter with thought and emotion (pupillometry) and eye movements, recorded via the electro-oculogram (EOG) and direction-of-gaze methods.

Uses of psychophysiology

Psychophysiological measures are often used to study emotion and attention responses in response to stimuli. Loud startle tones, emotionally charged pictures, videos, and tasks are presented and psychophysiological measures are used to examine responses.

References and external links

* Cacioppo, J. T., Tassinary, L. G., & Berntson, G. G. (2000). Handbook of psychophysiology, 2nd edition. New York: Cambridge University Press. (3rd ed. 2007)
* Society For Psychophysiological Research (SPR) http://sprweb.org/
* Journal--Psychophysiology http://www.blackwellpublishing.com/journal.asp?ref=0048-5772
* International Organization of Psychophysiology http://www1.elsevier.com/homepage/sag/iop2002
* Journal-- International Journal of Psychophysiology
* [http://www.the-bscp.com British Society for Clinical Psychophysiology (BSCP) Clinical Psychophysiology]
* [http://www.ohiou.edu/isarp/ The International Society for the Advancement of Respiratory Psychophysiology (ISARP)]
* [http://www.medipsych.co.uk The Medipsych Intitute Clinical Psychophysiology]


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  • psychophysiology — [sī΄kōfiz΄ē äl′ə jē] n. the study of the interactions between mental and physiological processes psychophysiological [sī΄kōfiz΄ē ə läj′i kəl] adj …   English World dictionary

  • psychophysiology — psichofiziologija statusas T sritis Kūno kultūra ir sportas apibrėžtis Mokslas, nagrinėjantis fiziologinius psichinių vyksmų fenomenus. kilmė gr. psychē – siela + fiziologija atitikmenys: angl. psychophysiology vok. Psychophysiologie, f rus.… …   Sporto terminų žodynas

  • psychophysiology — noun Etymology: International Scientific Vocabulary Date: 1839 physiological psychology • psychophysiologist noun …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • psychophysiology — psychophysiologist, n. /suy koh fiz ee ol euh jee/, n. the branch of physiology that deals with the interrelation of mental and physical phenomena. [1830 40; PSYCHO + PHYSIOLOGY] * * * …   Universalium

  • psychophysiology — noun The branch of physiology that deals with the interaction of the mind and physiological processes …   Wiktionary

  • psychophysiology — The science of the relation between psychologic and physiologic processes; e.g., elements of autonomic nervous system activity activated by emotion. * * * psy·cho·phys·i·ol·o·gy ē äl ə jē n …   Medical dictionary

  • psychophysiology — n. study of the relationship between physiological processes and psychological experiences …   English contemporary dictionary

  • psychophysiology — noun the study of the relationship between physiological and psychological phenomena. Derivatives psychophysiological adjective psychophysiologist noun …   English new terms dictionary

  • psychophysiology — psy·cho·physiology …   English syllables

  • psychophysiology — n. the branch of psychology that records physiological measurements, such as the electrical resistance of the skin, the heart rate, the size of the pupil, and the electroencephalogram, and relates them to psychological events. Derivatives:… …   The new mediacal dictionary


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