Nerve Cells

PSY1011/1111 Essay cover sheet Essay Title: How Do Nerve Cells Work and Why is it Important for Psychologists to know this? Student number: M00267898 Word count (Excluding title and references section):1,062 Declaration By submitting this work I acknowledge that I am its author, that all sources consulted in its preparation are referenced appropriately in accordance with the referencing guide, and that I have not copied from any source. How Do Nerve Cells Work and Why is it Important for Psychologists to know this?

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Biological psychology hypothesises that the nervous system has the ability to influence the way we see the world around us. So much hinges on the existence of these cells that even different schools can agree upon their existence. A nerve cell, also known as a neuron, is defined as “Any of the impulse conducting cells that constitute the brain, spinal column and nerves, consisting of a nucleated cell body with one or more dendrites and a single axon. ” (thefreedictionary. com. ) the dictionary defines an axon as “the long portion of a neuron that conducts impulses away from the body of the cell.

Also called nerve fibre” (thefreedictionary. com) the definition of a dendrite is “also called Dendron. Any of the short branched threadlike extensions of a nerve cell which conduct impulses toward the cell body. ” (thefreedictionary. com. ) discovered in the early 20th century by the Spanish anatomist Santiago Ramon Cajal. He proposed that neurons communicated with each other via specialised junctions, or spaces, between cells. Later this became known as the “neuron doctrine, one of the central tenets of modern neuroscience. (Encyclopaedia) In the brain there are approximately 100 billion nerve cells and there are nerves running throughout the body, the central nervous system consists of the brain, the spinal cord and the spinal column. When trying to understand the relationship between nerves and behaviour one must begin with the nervous system. When we begin to understand how it functions we will be able to relate to its essential role in our existence. The entire nervous system consists of a network of specialist cells that transfer information from our outside world to our internal person.

The underpinning of this entire system is neurons. These important cells transport information around the human body. We can divide the nervous system into two groups: the Central Nervous System (CNS) and the Peripheral nervous System (PNS). The PNS is made up of sensory neurons. These neurons send out electronic messages from our sensory glands and tissue. The information is received and sorted by the CNS. The CNS is kept in check by motor neurons. The information received by sensory neurons and out by the motor neurons allows the brain to process what is received.

Unfortunately there are millions of sensory and motor neurons as opposed to billions of inter neurons and here-in lies the problem. Both of these cells posses the same basic shape so it becomes difficult to differentiate between the two. The output of the axon arrives at an area commonly referred to as a synapse, which triggers the excretion of chemical responses called neurotransmitters. This allows information to As a psychologist it is of paramount importance that these cells and the damage of them is thoroughly understood, as these cells are the cornerstone for the behaviour of the human being.

There are some who disagree with this theory. Martin Seligman is one of those such individuals. His argument suggests that true understanding of f behaviour comes from an in depth understanding of the cognitive process which triggers it. He demonstrates and explains this argument in his learned helpless theory (Seligman, 1975). Theories such as Seligman’s strive to deem the cognitive process more important than the neurological one. Seyle’s General Adaptation Syndrome argues that particular behaviour, such as stress, comes about as a result of more than mere brain processes.

The argument puts forward the theory that a neurological shift occurs which elicits a particular reaction. Seyle also argues that during the process of resistance the human body tries to find its natural equilibrium. The body becomes more obedient when it is presented with mental upset but behavioural outcome is determined by nerve cells. Therefore a psychologists understanding of this will enable treatment of patients far more effectively as the client is taken holistically. Many psychologists believe that sleep is essential for proper brain function and repair.

Sleeping animals are impaired in their ability to monitor their environment, yet all animals studied so far sleep (Tobler, 2000). We know that it is essential to sleep, but for a long time no-one knew why. In a study conducted by Cirelli et al the effects of sleep on animals provides significant argument for the brain repair and rejuvenation that takes place while we rest. This is why we see such difficulty when people cannot get to sleep, they sometimes feel like they cannot function properly, which may well be the case and the brain has not had a proper opportunity to recuperate.

The two chemicals which have a major swing on ones behaviour are dopamine and serotonin. When these chemicals misfire or are not transmitted properly, the consequences can be dyer. When too much dopamine is received it can cause schizophrenia where as low serotonin levels can leave the patient feeling depressed. Psychologists such as Freud would argue that depression has a deep rooted psychological past. And that the experience of depression has something to do with suppressed memories. Freud’s argument is that depression, or melancholia, can be likened to the period of mourning. The correlation of melancholia and mourning seems justified by the general picture of the two conditions. ” Moreover, the exciting causes due to environmental influences are, so far as we can discern them at all, the same for both conditions” (Freud 1917). We now can muster a strong argument against Freud’s argument as we now have scientific proof that it is a push-pull relationship. When we are chemically unsettled our behaviour reflects this, and when we are calm our chemical balance seems to be in check.

The human being is a complex puzzle and no two are the same, but by understanding what makes us all fundamentally similar it becomes easier to right the wrongs when problems arise. When the mind is at peace the body can cope with high levels of adversity. The mind/brain control much more than we care to give it credit for. When a psychologist truly understands this it becomes easier to diagnose and acquire the proper help, sometimes without the use of drugs. The modern day psychologist must be willing to accept and understand the human being as a whole.

When this is achieved many more of those who require help will receive the proper help, tailor-made treatment. This will enable them to begin to feel like they can rejoin society and eventually get them onto a more positive path. References • Sigmund Freud (1917) ‘Mourning and Melancholia’ The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, Volume XIV (1914-1916): On the History of the Psycho-Analytic Movement, Papers on Metapsychology and Other Works, 237-258 [online] available from: http://www. arch. mcgill. ca/prof/bressani/arch653/winter2010/Freud_Mourningandmelancholia. df accessed: 26-07-2011 • Chiara Cirelli, Christina M. Gutierrez and Giulio Tononi (2004) ‘Extensive and Divergent Effects of Sleep and Wakefulness on Brain Gene Expression’ [online] available from: http://www. sciencedirect. com/science/article/pii/S0896627303008146#cor1 Accessed: 26-07-2011 • Unknown (unknown) ‘Nerve Cells and the Nervous System’ available from: http://www. brighthub. com/science/genetics/articles/31563. aspx accessed: 26-07-2011. • David. G. Myers. (2010). Psychology (ninth edition) New York: Worth Publishers.

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