Donald Hebb: biography of the father of biopsychology
This scientist created a discipline that bridges psychology and biology.
Psychobiology is a discipline within psychology that studies behavior through Biological principles.
Donald Hebb is considered its creator, an influential 20th century neuropsychologist. Hebb understood behavior through the functioning of neurons, which are responsible for transmitting different signals at the brain level.
In this article we will see a biography of Donald HebbIn this article, we will know some of his most important contributions related to behavior, motivation and some higher psychological processes, which served as a basis for creating modern neurophysiology.
Donald Hebb: an abridged biography
Donald Olding Hebb, born in Chester (Nova Scotia, Canada) in 1904 and died in the same place at the age of 81, was a neuropsychologist interested in writing novels, who ended up working especially in the field of psychobiology. In fact, he is considered the founder of this discipline. Hebb is also considered by many Hebb is considered by many to have laid the foundations of modern neurology..
Hebb was born to a physician mother and father. In addition, his mother was particularly influenced and interested in Maria Montessori and her pedagogical trend. Hebb attended school until he was 8 years old, and at the age of 10 he entered high school, being at an advanced level due to his great abilities.
Donald Hebb enrolled at the Dalhousie University (Canada) and graduated in 1925.. In addition, he became very interested in psychology and began to study it at McGill University, especially thanks to authors such as William James and Freudy Watson.
Thus, he entered McGill University and obtained a master's degree in psychology, he enrolled at McGill University and obtained a master's degree in Psychology.. It was then that she began a doctorate with Karl Lashley, an American behaviorist psychologist. At that time, Donald Hebb met Sigmund Freud.
Hebb continued with his doctorate at Harvard University, where he finished it in 1936 at the age of 32. In his dissertation Hebb discussed the perception of brightness and size in ratsstudying this group of animals in light conditions and in dark conditions.
Subsequently, Donald Hebb returned to Canada, specifically to Montreal, and began to work as a research assistant to Wilder G. Penfieldan important American neurosurgeon.
Penfield was by then studying nerve deficits in people who had suffered some kind of brain injury. Hebb later went to Florida with Lashley to study primate behavior, where he spent 5 years. Finally, he returned to Montreal and wrote his most famous work: The Organization of Behavior (1948).
It is worth noting that prior to his journey, Donald Hebb initially focused on the field of educationHebb was the headmaster of a school in Quebec. However, his steps led him to the world of psychobiology and neurosciences, as we shall see.
Initiator of Psychobiology
Donald Hebb was one of the most important creators of psychobiology.Psychobiology, a discipline that straddles biology and psychology; specifically, psychology is concerned with the study of human and animal behavior through the principles of biology.
Psychobiology was considered a neuroscientific discipline by the 20th century. One of the key works that helped to make this happen was The Organization of Behavior.
The Organization of Behavior
The Organization of Behavior is considered the culmination of Hebb's great research. In this famous work, Donald Hebb deals with phenomena and concepts of basic psychology, such as emotions, memory, thought and perception.such as emotions, memory, thought and perception.
It was a work that went "against" behaviorism; that is why the behaviorists criticized it, since for them explaining behavior through the association of ideas was simply "mentalism".
In the work, Donald Hebb considered that these phenomena (memory, emotions...) arise from brain activity. Specifically, in this work Hebb elaborates the first reasonable and accepted theory about these phenomena.
Throughout the book, Hebb discusses the possibility that these basic phenomena could arise from groups of neurons in the brain. In addition, The Organization of Behavior includes other theories of the author, mainly of a behaviorist nature.
Research and works
Donald Hebb developed his theories in the field of psychobiology through different experiments.. He developed them on animals and human beings, through clinical studies and observations.
Specifically, Donald Hebb specialized in psychobiology and neuropsychology, and studied the emotional processes that occur in chimpanzees. He was also interested in the effects of brain damage and surgery in animals, as well as in the evaluation of animal intelligence.
Some of his outstanding works were: Manual of Psychology (1966) y Essay on the mind (1980).
Another of Donald Hebb's great contributions was "Hebb's Law". According to this law the synaptic connections in the brain are reinforced (become stronger) the moment two or more neurons are activated contiguously, both in time and space.
In fact, according to Hebb's Law, what happens is that the firing of the cell (presynaptic) is associated with the activity of the other neuron (postsynaptic). This association creates changes in the brain structure that contribute to the development of neural networks.
It can be said that Donald Hebb was a very influential psychologist in his time, who left an important legacy through which to continue research. Although in the beginning he wanted to be a novelist and to write, in the end his career focused more on the field of psychobiology and animal research.
In this way, Hebb spent more than 20 years researching, as he felt he needed all that training to be a novelist.. With his great work, The Organization of BehaviorHebb gained greater recognition, and the doors of modern neurophysiology were opened.
In it he speaks especially of cellular networks (which he also calls cellular assemblies), and of the relationship between brain activity and important higher functions (such as behavior).
Death and legacy
Donald Hebb died in the same Canadian province where he was born (Chester, Nova Scotia), at the age of 81. Hebb's legacy continues to be passed on in universities and schools.Hebb's legacy continues to be passed on in universities and schools, and he is considered one of the great figures of psychology.
His contributions served as a basis for further research in the field of psychobiology and neuropsychology.
- Hebb, D. O. (1949). The Organization of Behavior: A neuropsychological theory. New York: Wiley.
- Milner, P. M. (1993). Donald O. Hebb, theorist of mind. Research and science.
- Pinel, J. (2006). Biopsychology. 6ED. Publisher: Prentice Hall.
(Updated at Mar 28 / 2023)