The Top 10 Theories and Concepts of Biological Bases of Behavior on the EPPP


Understanding biology, brain function and anatomy, medication, and various forms of brain impairment are important areas of the exam with which to feel comfortable. Although this material is not the most emphasized area of the exam, it surfaces enough that you should plan to spend a considerable amount of time reviewing the material and increasing your knowledge and comfort with concepts in these domains. If you map what AATBS study sections encompass biological bases of behavior, it would include material from the following domains: psychopharmacology, physiological psychology, lifespan, and abnormal psychology. When you approach this material, know that many of the questions will be straightforward, relaying on memorization of concepts, terms, and theories.


To start your review, here are the top 10 theories and concepts you want to be sure to be familiar with for this section of the exam:


1. Brain-based Conditions and Symptoms


Terms like achromatopsia and anomia are likely to appear on the exam, requiring you to know the symptoms of these conditions or how they present in someone with this disorder. You will notice that the majority of these terms begin with the letter “a,” so, flashcards can be a great way to review and memorize many of these terms which can get confused if not extensively reviewed.


2. Neurotransmitters


Neurotransmitters, their purpose and function, and the medications and disorders associated with too much or too little of each neurotransmitter are important to be familiar with. For example, you want to be able to quickly recall that acetylcholine is associated with Alzheimer’s Disease and low levels of serotonin are linked to Depression, PTSD, and OCD, to name a few..


3. The Nervous System


Understand the central nervous system and that it includes both the brain and spinal cord. Review and become familiar with the peripheral nervous system, including both the somatic and autonomic nervous system. Be able to understand what happens in the body when an individual’s parasympathetic or sympathetic nervous system is activated. A great way to learn and memorize these structures is by using a concept map and breaking down each nervous system into its component parts.


4. Brain Anatomy and Physiology


What regions of the brain are included in the hindbrain (medulla, cerebellum), midbrain, and forebrain? Understand each of these structures, their importance, and issues that surface when there is damage to each of these brain structures.


5. Learning, Memory, and Language


Understand the areas of the brain associated with learning and memory as well as the neural mechanisms associated with learning and memory (long term potentiation and protein synthesis). Learn about each form of aphasia, particularly Broca’s aphasia and Wernicke’s aphasia, both of which often appear as questions on the exam. How do these forms of aphasia present in an individual and where did the damage occur? (i.e. left frontal or temporal lobe).


6. Emotion and Stress


How does stress occur in the body and what areas of the brain are involved? What are the stages involved in how we respond to stress? Learn and be able to recall questions associated with theories of emotion and the areas of the brain that have proven to be connected to emotional response. For example, you might want to know that the hypothalamus is involved in the translation of emotion into physical responses.


7. Sleep and Dreaming


Be able to recall and understand what occurs during each of the five stages of sleep. How is REM sleep different from NREM sleep? What EEG patterns might you notice in each of the five stages of sleep? How does sleep look different for adults and infants and how does sleep change as we get older? Questions on the EPPP regarding sleep tend to be straightforward, probing for simple recall of general information regarding each of the five stages.


8. Disorders of the Brain


Understand traumatic brain injury, seizure disorders, neurological disorders, psychophysiological disorders, and endocrine disorders.


9. Drug Effects


Psychopharmacology appears on the exam and you will want to have a basic understanding of the effects of psychoactive drugs on the body (agonists versus antagonists). Become familiar with the ways that age and race/ethnicity impact medication sensitivity due to metabolic differences.


10. Drugs


There are several types of medications on the market and it is important to understand their use, side effects, and how they influence neurotransmitters. Get comfortable with medications by reviewing them in small segments. For example, you might start with a review of SSRIs before adding and comparing them against MAOIs. At times, many find they get overwhelmed by an intense review of all of the medications at once as the specifics can be confusing. It is best to break this section up, reviewing just a section at a time before moving forward.


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