This entry will not sound as elegant as Jenn’s and Hannah’s2 posts. So, here goes nothing!
I will admit that I never ever stop at the intersection; I always end up on the molecular neuroscience side-street in the Brain Borough. That being said, this article really helped me to appreciate the interdisciplinary approach to these brain/behavior problems. For example, with the explosion of research on depression, scientist have almost accepted that Hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis dysfunction is the underlying cause of depression due to the hypersecretion of corticosterone (if you’re a rat)/ cortisol (if you’re a human). On the other hand, research suggests that interferon-alpha (IFN)-α (a cytokine produced in the immune system) upregulation may also induce depression. Do we say that immune system dysfunction is the biological basis of depression? Or HPA dysfunction is the reason people get depressed. No. Why? Perhaps it is the same reason why we do not say that people choose to get depressed. We cannot reduce these problems to biology or psychology because creating this hierarchy forces us to miss a huge chunk of the puzzle. I agree with Miller and Keller; we should view biology as implementing psychology. On a side note, I wonder if this problem will ever get any better. It is almost like the constant debate between philosophers and psychologists.
Note: I am a hypocrite because I always overlook behavior and jump to brain. I might even panic a little when Professors force me to look at behavioral paradigms.
Check out this quote from Miller and Keller:
“Biology and Psychology often are set up as competitors for public mind-share, research funding, and scientific legitimacy. We are not arguing for a psychological explanation of cognition and emotion instead of a biological explanation. Rather, we are arguing against framing biology and psychology in a way that forces a choice between those kinds of explanations.”
What does this sound like? It sounds like our friends Miller and Keller are moving toward the ‘mind’ versus ‘brain’ debate. Perhaps this entire intersection is at the heart of the mind versus brain debate. If someone experiences chronic depression, does it make sense to reduce his/her symptoms to neurotransmitter imbalance and administer selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) and/or electroconvulsive therapy? Or is it simply a “mind” problem that can be resolved via intense cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or counseling? The answer probably lies in a beautiful drug-psychotherapy cocktail! Overall, the article was informative. I’m with Jenn. Is it mind over matter?