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Physiological psychology is a subdivision of biological psychology that studies the neural mechanisms of perception and behavior through direct manipulation of the brains of nonhuman animal subjects in controlled experiments.[1] Unlike other subdivisions within biological psychology, the main focus of physiological psychological research is the development of theories that explain brain-behavior relationships rather than the development of research that has translational value. It is sometimes alternatively called psychophysiology, and in recent years also cognitive neuroscience.

One example of physiological psychology research is the study of the role of the hippocampus in learning and memory. This can be achieved by surgical removal of the hippocampus from the rat brain followed by an assessment of memory tasks by that same rat.[2]

In the past, physiological psychologists received much of their training in psychology departments in major universities. Currently, physiological psychologists are also be trained in behavioral neuroscience or biological psychology[3] programs that are affiliated with psychology departments, or in interdisciplinary neuroscience programs.

Areas of study[]

  • Motor functions
  • Emotion
  • Sleep
  • Physiological psychology: Arousal
  • Thirst
  • Language

References & Bibliography[]

  1. Pinel, J. P. J. (2004). Biopsychology. Allyn and Bacon. ISBN 0-20542-651-4
  2. Olton DS, Becker JT and Handelmann GE (1979) Hippocampus, space, and memory. Brain and Behavioral Science 2: 313–365.
  3. S. Marc Breedlove, Mark R. Rosenzweig, and Neil V. Watson (2007). Biological Psychology: An Introduction to Behavioral and Cognitive Neuroscience. Sinauer Associates. ISBN 978-0878937059

Key texts[]


  • Green, S. (1987) Physiological Psychology: an Introduction, London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.


Additional material[]


  • Blundell, J.E. (1975) Physiological Psychology, London: Methuen.
  • Grossman, S.P. (1967) A Textbook of Physiological Psychology, New York: John Wiley.


External links[]

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Physiological psychology: Academic support materials

  • Physiological psychology:Lecture slides
  • Physiological psychology:Lecture notes
  • Physiological psychology:Lecture handouts
  • Physiological psychology:Multimedia materials
  • Physiological psychology:Other academic support materials
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