What is COGNITIVE NEUROSCIENCE and what does it study

  • Jul 26, 2021
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What is cognitive neuroscience and what does it study

Psychology has often found itself in a difficult situation when trying to define what its object of study is and, consequently, give an answer to what psychology is. A frequent answer is that psychology is in charge of studying human behavior, and thus it is believed that the problem is solved, ignoring that anthropology, economics, History and pedagogy are disciplines also in charge of the study of human behavior, although these are related to learning, money, temporal human evolution and culture.

What, then, is the study of human behavior in psychology related to? Probably, just as medicine has techniques for the improvement of health, using biology as the basis of its science, psychology is also oriented to the improvement of health, using cognitive neuroscience as a basis, where it is understood that psychological functions are generated as a consequence of neurons and circuits that generate. In Psychology-Online, we explain more about what is cognitive neuroscience and what does it study.

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  1. What is cognitive neuroscience
  2. What does cognitive neuroscience study
  3. Cognitive neuroscience study techniques and methods
  4. Applied cognitive neuroscience

What is cognitive neuroscience.

The neuroscience is a set of sciences whose object of investigation is the nervous system with a particular interest in how brain activity relates to behavior and learning. Thus we understand then that the objective of cognitive neuroscience is to understand how mental processes can be related to the entire structure of the nervous system and make the relationship of each neuronal area with a certain mental response.

Kandel (1977) in his book Neuroscience and behavior, explains to us how important the relationship between the study of the brain and mental processes is. Kandel details that the brain is a network of more than one hundred billion nerve cells Bounded, interconnected into systems that produce our perceptions of the external world, focus our attention, and control our motor responses. Thus, for Kandel, the first step in understanding the mind is how neurons become organized into communication pathways and how individual nerve cells in the brain communicate through the synaptic transmission. Kandel ends by explaining that, according to this viewpoint of neuroscience, disorders characteristics that characterize a mental illness are as follows: alterations in function cerebral.

For Patoriza (2006) current neuroscience is cognitive neuroscience: a fusion of neuroanatomy, neurophysiology, developmental biology, cellular and molecular biology, and cognitive psychology. Patoriza part of this golden rule like this:

All human activity can, and should, be approached from different levels of analysis: biomolecular, cellular, systems, behavioral, and cognitive, as well as philosophical, epistemological, metaphysical, humanistic, and artistic.

What does cognitive neuroscience study?

With the analysis of Kandel's proposal, we understand that neuroscience studies the neurological processes involved in thinking and their corresponding mental response. Thus, cognitive neuroscience in psychology studies the relationship between mental illnesses and the thoughts caused by chemical reactions in the nervous system of the human being.

Continuing with Kandel's proposal, the task of neuroscience is "to provide explanations of behavior in terms of brain activities, and to explain how millions of people act. individual nerve cells in the brain to produce human behavior and how, in turn, these cells are influenced by the environment, including the behavior of others individuals.

Cognitive neuroscience allows know the brain regions involved in the development of cognitive activityThanks to advances in neuroimaging, mental states can be related to specific brain functions.

We thus understand that cognitive neuroscience studies mind-brain relationships, mental processes from an interdisciplinary approach and is proposes that the disciplines that determine the birth of cognitive neuroscience are neuroanatomy (macro and micro brain structure), neurophysiology (brain functioning), neuroimaging technologies, cognitive sciences (cognitive psychology, information theory, systems theory). It is also related to neuropsychology and psychophysiology.

Techniques and methods of study of cognitive neuroscience.

The most used and essential techniques of cognitive neuroscience are neuroimaging techniques useful for studying the anatomy and functions of the brain.

Among these neuroimaging techniques, the following can be mentioned mainly:

  • Functional magnetic resonance imaging, which allows the analysis or study of neuronal activity through the changes that arise in the blood stream of different brain structures.
  • It can also be mentioned within the fundamental techniques of neuroscience the electroencephalogram (EEG), which consists of measuring the electrical activity of the brain through the use of electrodes on the scalp of the subject evaluated.

Currently there are other methods of endocrinological studies aimed at measuring the levels of hormones related to some neurotransmitters importantly involved in cognitive processes and their consequent behavioral response, many of these studies have been perform through hematology exams (such as T3 and T4 hormone studies). Many of the alterations of these components produce considerable risks not only on the physical level, but also on the mental level.

What is cognitive neuroscience and what does it study - Techniques and study methods of cognitive neuroscience

Applied cognitive neuroscience.

Applied cognitive neuroscience is a discipline that uses knowledge about the functioning and anatomical structure of the brain for the intervention of practical problems. Applied cognitive neuroscience draws on insights from clinical psychology.

Currently the main application of neuroscience is the clinic, where neurofeedback techniques are used and neurostimulation to treat sleep disorders, obsessive compulsive disorders, epilepsies, depressive disorders and disorders of posttraumatic stress.

The advances that have been achieved to date through neuroscience have facilitated a characteristic and significant advance in the understanding of processes such as emotions, language, awareness, learning, attention, memory and motivation. These achievements made by neuroscience are related not only to the neurochemical processes that sustain, but also the alterations that occur when one of these neurological circuits is altered; thus it is also possible to explain that behaviors considered pathological have an organic basis.

This article is merely informative, in Psychology-Online we do not have the power to make a diagnosis or recommend a treatment. We invite you to go to a psychologist to treat your particular case.

If you want to read more articles similar to What is cognitive neuroscience and what does it study, we recommend that you enter our category of Neuropsychology.


  • Eric Kandel. (1997). Neuroscience and behavior. Madrid. Prentice Hall.
  • Nelly Pastoriza. (2006). Teaching of neuroscientific foundations of cognitive processes. Buenos Aires.
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