Psychology and Neuroscience

What makes psychology and neuroscience an exciting combination for study?

Psychology is a relatively young discipline which has made a dramatic contribution to society in the century since it was defined as a science. In this time, psychologists have developed theories about human behaviour that have provided the underpinnings of economic theory (behavioural economics), interventions for children with developmental disorders such as dyslexia (reading schemes based on phonological awareness), greater understanding of clinical disorders such as anxiety and depression (Beck’s theory of depression), and have even made us think more about what it is to be happy (positive psychology). As such, the effect of psychology on society is pervasive. It is an exciting time to be a psychologist.

Much of our understanding of the human brain has been acquired in an even shorter period. Over the last few decades there have been an exponentially increasing number of research papers using brain imaging.

New information about our brain processes is coming to light every day. And, as we construct a better picture of the organisation of the brain and its typical and atypical mental processes, we become better able to create interventions for people with developmental disorders like autism or dyslexia, disorders that affect people of all ages like depression and anxiety, and the disorders of ageing like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. It is an exciting time to be a neuroscientist.

This extremely rapid growth in neuroscience has been built on the theoretical understanding of human thought and behaviour developed by psychologists before the discovery of techniques to image the live human brain. Indeed, it could be argued that modern neuroscience would not have been possible without psychology.

More recently, however, the tables are turning, and psychological advances are often underpinned by research in neuroscience. Thus, psychological theory can be constrained by our understanding of how the brain works.  It is not sufficient to theorise about how a particular behaviour occurs – now this theory can be tested to determine whether the brain really works like that. And, therefore, the future for improving our understanding of human behaviour will come from collaborative ventures that bring together psychologists and neuroscientists.

The tools to study the brain are beginning to be found more and more in departments of psychology. For instance, the University of Reading’s Centre for Integrative Neuroscience and Neurodynamics houses equipment for a range of techniques including magnetic resonance imaging, electroencephalography and transcranial magnetic stimulation.

Psychology and Neuroscience courses accredited by the British Psychological Society are now available in several universities in the UK. These provide UK and international students with the opportunity to develop the combination of skills that they will need to be at the forefront of psychology. And, living in the UK, especially in the South East, places students at the heart of this scientific revolution.

Provided by the University of Reading (UK)

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