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Example Answers for Biopsychology: A Level Psychology, Paper 2, June 2018 (AQA)

A Level

Last updated 19 Jun 2018

Section B – Biopsychyology: Q5 [1 Mark]

The somatic nervous system facilitates communication between the central nervous system and the outside world, whereas the autonomic nervous system plays an important role in maintaining internal processes like body temperature.

Section B – Biopsychyology: Q6 [3 Marks]

  • A = Sensory
  • B = Relay 
  •  C = Motor

Section B – Biopsychyology: Q7 [3 Marks]

The reason that information can only travel in one direction at the synapse is due to the specific function of different parts of the neuron. At the end of the pre-synaptic neuron are synaptic vesicles that contain neurotransmitters. When an action potential reaches the vesicles, they release neurotransmitters which carry the signal over the synaptic gap. Neurotransmitters bind to specific receptor sites that are positioned at the start of the post-synaptic neuron that then become activated.

Consequently, the information can only travel in this direction because the neurotransmitters are released from the vesicles at the end of the pre-synaptic neuron and bind to sites at the start of the post-synaptic neuron. This would make it impossible for information to flow in any other direction. 

Section B – Biopsychyology: Q8 [4 Marks]

When someone enters a potentially stressful situation, such as a driving test, the amygdala is activated. The amygdala sends a distress signal to the hypothalamus, which communicates with the body through the sympathetic nervous system (SNS). If the situation requires a short-term response, the sympathomedullary pathway (SAM pathway) is activated. The SNS stimulates the adrenal medulla which secretes the hormones adrenaline and noradrenaline into the bloodstream. Adrenaline causes a number of physiological changes to prepare the body for fight or flight such as increased heart rate. This may not be helpful during a driving test in which the candidate needs to remain calm in order to follow instructions.

Section B – Biopsychyology: Q9 [8 Marks]

Exogenous zeitgebers are external environmental stimuli which train our body clock into sleep/wake patterns. Light is the most common exogenous zeitgeber, but since Julia is awake all night, because of her baby, this means that her natural sleep pattern is being disrupted. Receptors in the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN), which are found in the hypothalamus, are sensitive to levels of light received by the eyes and help re-set the internal biological clock every 24-hour day/night cycle. As a result, one strategy that Julia could use would be to ensure the baby was exposed to a good level of daylight during the daytime before being placed to sleep in a dark room after sunset.

There is research support for the role of light as an important exogenous zeitgeber. Vetter et al. (2011) conducted a longitudinal study over five weeks with volunteer participants who were either exposed to a ‘warm’ artificial light source or a ‘blue-enriched’ artificial light source, which was similar to daylight. Each participant was required to keep a daily record of their sleep patterns and wore equipment which measured how active they were during the daytime. It was found that participants in the first condition synchronised their circadian rhythm when dawn broke, which advanced every day, whereas those in the second group did not show this pattern and instead synchronised to their working hours at the office. This shows that light is indeed important in encouraging a regular circadian rhythm of the sleep/wake cycle and that the composition of light affects the SCN.

Section B – Biopsychyology: Q10 [3 Marks]

  • 9.0 + 8.0 + 8.5 + 7.0 + 7.5 + 10.5 + 8.0 = 58.5 hours 
  • 58.5 / 7 = 8.385714285714286
  • 2SF = 8.3 hours

Section B – Biopsychyology: Q11 [2 Marks]

The mean is the most appropriate in this situation as it is considered the most sensitive of all the measures of central tendency as it will take into consideration all values in this dataset.


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