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Biorhythms and Aggression Complete Notes

Biorhythms and Aggression Complete Notes

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Published by George Noorland

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Published by: George Noorland on May 09, 2012
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04/19/2013

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PSYCHOLOGY: UNIT 3
Biorhythms, Aggression, Relationships
By Christopher Martin
 
Topic I: Bio-rhythms (separated into six essay topics)
 
Biological rhythms:
There are three types of biological rhythm; circadian, ultradian and infradian. Circadian rhythmsare those which complete a cycle in a 24 hour period such as the sleep-wake cycle, heart rate or metabolism. Peoplehave variations within the circadian rhythms, notably the owl/lark division describing people who have biologicalclocks which run ahead or behind the average. Ultradian rhythms are those which occur more than once in a 24 hourperiod, for example eating or the sleep cycle which repeats approximately four times per night. Infradian rhythms arethose which occur over a period greater than 24 hours, such as the menstrual cycle and PMS. These and SAD (seasonalaffective disorder) are the infradian rhythms which have attracted the most psychological research.
 
The stages of sleep are an example of an ultradian rhythm, repeating roughly every 90 minutes while asleep. Since the
invention of the EEG in the 1930’s the research into stages of sleep has drastically increased. In 1968, Kales and
Rechtschaffen discovered four distinct stages people entered during sleep. Stage 1 usually lasts for roughly 15 minutes
at the beginning of the cycle and is characterised by slower ‘theta’ brain waves. Stage 2, lasting about 20 minutes is
characterised by sleep spindles (bursts of high cognitive activity) and K-complexes. Following this is stage 3, whichlasts for 15 minutes. In this stage, brain waves slow and increase in amplitude and wavelength, developing into deltawaves. Stage 4 is similar to stage 3 and is when a person is most relaxed and most difficult to wake. The fifth stage of sleep is called REM (as opposed to stage 1-4 which are NREM stages). During REM sleep the brain is almost as active asit is during the day. Sleep paralysis also occurs, meaning that while brain activity is high, because the pons disconnectsthe brain from the muscles, the body effectively becomes paralysed.There are a few infradian rhythms which have attracted a fair amount of research. Seasonal affective disorder affectsa small number of people. It is a disorder where low light levels stimulate melatonin production (a neuro-chemicalwhich induces sleepiness) and decrease serotonin production (which can lead to depression). Terman et al. (1998)researched 124 participants with SAD; 85 were exposed to a bright light in the morning or evening while others wereexposed to negative ions and acted as a placebo group. 60% of the morning light group showed an improvement, asopposed to 30% of the evening light group and only 5% of the placebo group. Therefore, it has been concluded thatbright light acts as an exogenous zeitgeber, resetting the biological clock in the morning.The menstrual cycle, lasting roughly a month uses both endogenous pacemakers and exogenous zeitgebers. On aninternal level, this is controlled by levels of oestrogen and progesterone, both secreted by the ovaries. These cause therelease of eggs from the ovum and the thickening of the uterus lining. One notable external factor is living with otherwomen, which alters the cycle likely due to the secretion of pheromones which carry messages between individuals of the same species. This was investigated by McClintock and Stern (1988) in a 10 year longitudinal study. In this studysweat samples from 9 women were collected and dabbed on the upper lip of a separate 20 with histories of irregularmenstrual cycles. 68% of recipients responded to the pheromones. This is supported by Russell et al (1980) whoconducted a similar study where four fifths of participants responded to the pheromones. However, McClintock'sstudy has been criticised for a low sample size and Wilson (1992) believes that the results were due to statisticalerrors and when these are corrected the effect disappears. Reinberg (1967) reported on a woman who lived in a cavefor 3 months; her menstrual cycle shortened to 25.7 days. Therefore it may be possible for light levels to affect thecycle. This is supported by Timonen et al. (1964) who found women were less likely to conceive during darker monthsdue to the effect of light on the pituitary gland, which may have an evolutionary advantage.Endogenous pacemakers are internal factors which are able to regulate biological rhythms. To study these, Siffre(1962) spent 61 days in a cave in low light conditions. During this period, his body clock extended to a 24.5 hour dayand when he emerged he believed it was 28 days earlier than it in fact was. This suggests that there is internal controlof circadian rhythms because a regular cycle was maintained but also there must be exogenous zeitgebers thatshorten the cycle to a 24 hour cycle instead of a 24.5 hour cycle. There is conflicting evidence from Czeisler whoconducted a study where participants were kept in constant low light conditions. In this study, a roughly 24 hour cycle
was maintained; this is known as ‘free running’. However, a major criticism of Siffre’s study is that it was a case study
and therefore, because of individual differences, other people may react differently. The basis for endogenouspacemakers is the pineal gland, which secretes melatonin (the neurotransmitter that induces sleepiness). In someanimals, this itself has photoreceptors that monitor light levels. However in humans, the SCN (suprachiasmaticnucleus) receives sensory input via the optic nerve and regulates melatonin production. Morgan (1995) transplantedthe SCNs from mutant hamsters (with abnormal circadian rhythms) into regular hamsters. It was discovered that thiscaused the hamsters to develop abnormal circadian rhythms, implicating the SCN in the regulation of circadianrhythms. But there are issues with generalising these results across species and releasing the hamsters into the wild.
*****
 
Disrupting rhythms:
Under normal circumstances biological rhythms are not in conflict with the daily lives of people,however there are two main examples of when conflict can occur; jet lag and shift lag. Jet lag (desynchronosis) is
caused by the body’s internal clock being out of sync with external cues and has symptoms including fatigue,
insomnia, anxiety and dehydration. Schwartz et al. (1995) studied the performance and reaction times of baseballteams flying from the East to West coast of America and vice versa (a 3 hour time difference). It was found that teamstravelling West performed considerably better than those travelling East. However, this was performed on sportsteams who are likely to be trained to have high reflexes/ reaction times so there are difficulties in generalising theresults of this study. De la Iglesia (2004) exposed rats to artificial days lasting 11 hours rather than 12. It was foundthat gradually, the rats began to exhibit daytime behaviour at night. De la Iglesia went on to discover that both the topand bottom of the SCN contained the protein Perl during the day and the protein Bmall at night. However, duringdesynchronosis the top half contained Perl and the bottom half contained Bmall suggesting that the bottom half of the SCN continues to rely on endogenous pacemakers whereas the top half is affected by exogenous zeitgebers. Saper(2008) suggested that there is a food clock which is capable of over-riding the master biological clock and thereforefasting during flights and eating at the correct times in new time zones may in fact reset the biological clock.
 
Shift lag is a serious problem as it can result in fatigue, sleep disturbance, lack of concentration, memory loss andusually occurs over extended periods of time. There are a number of shift patterns currently in use; fixed shifts andclockwise/ anti-clockwise rotating shifts. Czeisler et al (1982) recommended a slow rotation with a phase-delay system(moving a shift forward every time) to factory workers in a Utah chemical plant and a number of benefits includingincreased morale and health were reported. Boivin et al. (1996) put 31 male participants on an inverted sleep patternfor three days. After waking on each day they were subjected to one of the following conditions: very bright light,bright light, ordinary room lighting or dim lighting. To measure the adjustment, core body temperature (a knowncircadian rhythm) was measured. Participants in the very bright light condition adjusted by five hours within threedays. The other conditions did also advance but not by as much and the participants in condition four did not adjust atall. It was concluded that bright light can help biological rhythms adjust to shift lag and this research could beimplemented in various companies where employees work on shifts. Alternatively, Sharkey (2001) found that thehormone melatonin could be used to aid adjustment to shift patterns and increase sleep during periods of non-work.However this is currently only available in America as it has not been given an EU licence yet.
*****
Sleep states:
Sleep appears to be necessary for all animals to survive. It has been estimated that humans sleep onaverage for 7.5 hours per night. Of course, there are individual differences and Meddis (1979) even reported the casestudy of a woman who slept for 1 hour per night with none of the side effects associated with sleep deprivation. Thestages of sleep (slow wave 1-4 and REM) are covered in biological rhythms. There are two theories concerning thedevelopment of sleep, these are the evolutionary theory and the restorative theory. The evolutionary theory (Meddis)states that due to poor vision in low light, sleep has an evolutionary advantage to humans because it keeps the speciessafe at night; and therefore more likely to survive to pass on genes. This theory also takes into account that animalswith higher metabolic rates spend more time eating and so sleep for smaller periods at a time. Evans (1984) criticises
this theory, stating ‘ the behaviour patterns involved in sleep are glaringly at odds with common sense’ referring to
the fact that while this theory proposes animals sleep for protection, they are in fact at their most vulnerable duringthis state. Siegal (2005) reviewed the sleep patterns of numerous species and concluded that it could not beperforming the same function in every species because of the diversity of sleep patterns.
 
Webb proposes a variation on the evolutionary theory, known as the hibernation theory which sees sleep as anadaptive behaviour designed to conserve energy. This theory compares sleep to hibernation in the way that it occursto conserve energy so that an animal does not need to constantly feed. In humans, sleep lowers the metabolic rate byup to 10% thus conserving energy/ resources during time when early humans were unable to forage or hunt (eg. nighttime, as described in the previous paragraph). Meddis criticises this theory for being too simplistic and not taking into
account the role of sleep in protection from danger. Empson(1993) described sleep as ‘a complex function involvingfar reaching changes in brain and body physiology’ suggesting that slee
p must have a restorative function and cannotpurely be evolutionary. Evolutionary theories are also unable to explain the complexities of sleep such as the REMstage (although it has been suggested that the brain activity observed in this stage is to prevent brain temperaturefrom dropping too low). Some psychologists argue that sleep would now be pointless in human societies, however theevolutionary response is that behaviour changes much more rapidly than biology or physiology through evolution -known as the genome lag.Oswald (1966) suggested that sleep restores energy, removes waste from muscles and repairs cells, as well as allowgrowth to occur. One example of this is the build up of neurotransmitters used in the nervous system throughout the

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