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Biological Evolution

Changes that take place in the genetic and physical characteristics of a population or group of people

Adaptive Significance

The effectiveness of behaviour in aiding organisms to adjust to changing environmental conditions

ultimate causes

Evolutionary conditions that have slowly shaped the behaviour of a species over generations

Proximate causes

immediate environmental events and conditions that affect behaviour

Evolutionary psychology

the branch of psychology that studies the ways in which an organism's evolutionary history contributes to the development of behavioural patterns and cognitive strategies related to reproduction and survival during its lifetime


The sum of socially transmitted knowledge, customs, and behaviour patterns common to a particular group of people

Artificial Selection

A procedure in which animals are deliberately mated to produce offspring that possess particularly desirable characteristics

Natural Selection

The consequence of the fact that, because there are physical and behavioural differences among organisms, they reproduce differentially. Within a given population, some animals- the survivors - will produce more offspring than will other animals

Reproductive success

The number of viable offspring an individual produces relative to the number of viable offspring produced by other members of the same species


The differences found across individuals of any given species in terms of their genetic, biological (size, strength, physiology), and psychological (intelligence, sociability, behaviour) characteristics


An organism's genetic makeup


The outward expression of an organism's genotype; an organism's physical appearance and behaviour


A striving or vying with others who share the same ecological niche for food, mate, and territory


The ability to move about the environment upright on two feet


Increases in brain size

Cultural Evolution

The adaptive changes of cultures in response to environmental changes over time


The study of the genetic makeup of organisms and how it influences their physical and behavioural characteristics


The sum of the traits and tendencies inherited from a person's parents and other biological ancestors


The structure resembles that of a twisted ladder. Strands of sugar and phosphates are connected by rungs made from nucleotide molecules of adenine, thymine, guanine and cytosine


Small units of DNA that direct the synthesis of proteins and enzymes


The total set of genetic material of an organism


Proteins that regulate the structure of bodily cells and the processes occurring within those cells.


Rod-like structures in the nuclei of living cells; contains genes

Sex Chromosomes

The chromosomes that contain the instructional code for the development of male or female sex characteristics


The chromosomes that are not sex chromosomes


The form of cell division by which new sperm and ova are formed. The chromosomes within the cell are randomly rearranged so that new sperm and ova contain 23 individual chromosomes, or half of those found in other bodily cells


Alternative forms of the same gene

Dominant trait

The trait that is exhibited when an individual possesses heterozygous alleles.

Recessive trait

A trait that occurs when it is expresses by homozygous alleles


Accidental alterations in the DNA code within a single gene. The can be either spontaneous, occurring naturally or the result of environmental factors such as exposure to high energy radiation

chromosomal aberration

The rearrangement of genes within chromosomes or a change in the total number of chromosomes

Down syndrome

A genetic disorder caused by a chromosomal aberration resulting in an extra twenty-first chromosome. People having this disorder show impairments in physical, phychomotor, and cognitive development

Huntington's chorea

A genetic disorder caused by a dominant lethal gene in which a person experiences slow but progressive mental and physical deterioration


A genetic disorder caused by a particular pair of homozygous recessive genes and characterized by the inability to break down phenylalanine, an amino acid found in many high-protein foods. The resulting high blood levels of phenylalanine cause mental retardation


the amount of variability in a given trait in an given population at a given time due to genetic factors

behaviour genetics

The study of genetic influences on behaviour

mendelian trait

A trait showing a classical dominant, recessive, or sex-linked pattern of inheritance. They are usually dichotomous and are controlled by a single locus

Nonmendelian trait

a trait that does no show the inheritance pattern described by Mendel. They are usually polygenic and show continuous variation in the phenotype

Genetic engineering

the new scientific discipline of manipulating genetic sequences to alter an organism's genome

Knockout mutation

An artificially constructed genetic sequence inserted into a gene to inactivate it

genetic marker

A known DNA sequence that occurs at a particular place in the chromosome

Concordance research

Research that studies the degree of similarity between twins in traits expresses.

reproductive strategies

Different systems of mating and rearing offspring. These include monogamy, polygyny, polyandry and polygyandry


The mating of one female to one male


The mating of one male with more than one female


The mating of one female with more than one male


The mating of several females with several males

Parental Investment

The resources, including time, physical effort, and risk to life that a parent spends in procreation and in the feeding, nurturing and protecting offspring

Sexual selection

selection for traits specific to sex, such as body size, or particular patterns of behaviour


The unselfish concern of one individual for the welfare of another

Inclusive fitness

The reproductive success of those who share common genes

Kin selection

A type of selection that favours altruistic acts aimed at individuals who share some of the altruist's genes, such as parents, siblings, grandparents, grandchildren, and under certain circumstances, distant relatives

Reciprocal altruism

Altruism in which people behave altruistically towards one another because they are confident that such acts will be reciprocated towards either them or their kin


the idea that one's own cultural, national, racial or religious group is superior to or more deserving than others.

Central Nervous System

The brain and the spinal cord

Spinal Cord

A long, thin collection of nerve cells attached to the base of the brain and running the length of the spinal column


A bundle of nerve fibers that transmit information between the central nervous system and the body's sense organs, muscles, and glands

Peripheral Nervous system

The cranial and spinal nerves; that part of the nervous system peripheral to the brain and spinal cord

Brain stem

Part of the brain including the medulla, pons, and mid-brain

Cerebral hemisphere

The largest part of the brain; covered by the cerebral cortex and containing parts of the brain that evolved most recently


A pair of hemispheres resembling the cerebral hemispheres but much smaller and lying beneath and in the back of them; controls posture and movements, especially rapid ones


One of the bones that encase the spinal cord and constitute the vertebral column


The three-layered set of membranes that enclose the brain and spinal cord

Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF)

The liquid in which the brain and spinal cord float; provides a shock - absorbing cushion

Cerebral cortex

the outer layer of the cerebral hemispheres of the brain, approximately 3 mm thick

Grey matter

The portions of the central nervous system that are abundant in cell bodies of neurons rather than axons. The colour appears grey relative to white matter

White Matter

The portions of the central nervous system that are abundant in axons rather than cell bodies of neurons. The colour derives from the presence of the axon's myelin sheaths

Spinal Nerve

A bundle of nerve fibers attached to the spinal cord; conveys sensory information from the body and carries messages to muscles and glands

Cranial Nerve

A bundle of nerve fibers attached to the base of the brain; conveys sensory information from the face and head and carries messages to muscles and glands


A nerve cell; consists of a cell body with dendrites and an axon whose branches end in terminal buttons that synapse with muscle fibers, gland cells, or other neurons

Glial cell

A cell of the central nervous system that provides support for neurons and supplies them with some essential chemicals


A cell body; the largest part of a neuron


A treelike part of a neuron on which other neurons form synapses


A long, thin part of a neuron attached to the soma; divides into a few or many branches, ending in terminal buttons

Dendritic spine

A small bud-like protuberance on the surface of a neuron's dendrite

Terminal Button

The rounded swelling at the end of the axon of a neuron; releases transmitter substance

transmitter substance

A chemical released by the terminal buttons that causes the postsynaptic neuron to be excited or inhibited

Myelin Sheath

The insulating material that encases most large axons

Action Potential

A brief electrochemical event that is carried by an axon from the soma of the neuron to its terminal buttons; causes the release of a transmitter substance


A positively charged particle; produced when many substances dissolve in water

Ion Channel

A special protein molecule located in the membrane of a cell; controls the entry or exit of particular ions

Ion transporter

A special protein molecule located in the membrane of a cell; actively transports ions into or out of the cell


The junction between the terminal button of one neuron and the membrane of a muscle fibre, a gland, or another neuron

postsynaptic neuron

A neuron with which the terminal buttons of another neuron form synapses and that is excited or inhibited by that neuron

Motor neuron

A neuron whose terminal buttons form synapses with muscle fibres. When an action potential travels down its axon, the associated muscle fibres will twitch.

Synaptic Cleft

A fluid-filled gap between the presynaptic and postsynaptic membranes; the terminal button releases transmitter sunstance into this space

Receptor molecule

A special protein molecule located in the membrane of the postsynaptic neuron that responds to molecules of the transmitter substance. Receptors such as those that respond to opiates are sometimes found elsewhere on the surface of neurons


The process by which a terminal button retrieves the molecules of transmitter substances that it has just released; terminates the effect of the transmitter substance on the receptors of the postsynaptic neuron

Sensory Neuron

A neuron that detects changes in the external or internal environment and sends information about these changes to the central nervous system


A neuron located entirely within the central nervous system


A substance secreted in the brain that modulates the activity of neurons that contain the appropriate receptor molecules


A neurotransmitter whose action is mimicked by a natural or synaptic opiate, such as opium, morphine or heroin

Brain lesion

Damage to a particular region of the brain; a synonym for experimental ablation

Stereotaxic apparatus

A device used to insert an electrode into a particular part of the brain for the purpose of recording electrical activity, stimulating the brain electrically, or producing localized damage


A thin electrode made of wire or glass that can measure the electrical activity of a single neuron


A method of brain study that measures the changes in magnetic fields that accompany action potentials in the cerebral cortex


A procedure that collects solutions surrounding the brain's neurons for subsequent chemical analysis

transcranial magnetic stimulation

Direct stimulation of the cerebral cortex induced by magnetic fields generated outside the skull

Brain plasticity

Structural change in the brain resulting from experience

CT scanner

A device that uses a special X-ray machine and a computer to produce images of the brain that appear as slices taken parallel to the top of the skull


Towards the front


Towards the back

Frontal Lobe

The front portion of the cerebral cortex, including Broca's speech area and the motor cortex; damage impairs movement, planning, and flexibility in behavioural strategies

Parietal Lobe

The region of the cerebral cortex behind the frontal lobe and above the temporal lobe; contains the somatosensory cortex; is involved in spatial perceptions and memory

Temporal Lobe

The portion of the cerebral cortex below the frontal and parietal lobes; contains the auditory cortex

Occipital Lobe

The rearmost portion of the cerebral cortex; contains the primary visual cortex

Primary visual cortex

The region of the cerebral cortex that receives information directly from the visual system; located in the occipital lobe

Primary auditory cortex

The region of the cerebral cortex that receives information directly from the auditory system; located in the temporal lobes

Primary somatosensory cortex

The region of the cerebral cortex that receives information directly from the somatosensory system (touch, pressure, vibration, pain and temperature); located in the front part of the parietal lobes


Residing in the side of the body opposite the reference point

Primary motor cortex

The region of the cerebral cortex that directly controls the movements of the body; located posterior to the frontal lobes

Sensory association cortex

Those regions of cerebral cortex that receive information from the primary sensory areas

Prefrontal cortex

The anterior part of the frontal lobe; contains the motor association cortex

Motor Association cortex

Those regions of the cerebral cortex that contains the primary motor cortex; involved in planning and executing behaviour

Corpus Callosum

A large bundle of axons ("white matter") that connects the cortex of the two cerebral hemispheres

Visual agnosia

The inability of a person who is not blind to recognize the identity or use of an object by means of vision; usually caused by damage to the brain


The process by which important physiological characteristics (such as body temperature and blood pressure) are regulated so that they remain at the optimum level

Species-typical behaviour

A behaviour seen in all or most members of a species; such as nest building; special food-getting behaviours; or reproductive behaviours


The part of the brain stem closest to the spinal cord; controls vital functions such as heart rate and blood pressure


The part of the brain stem just anterior to the medulla; involved in control of sleep


The part of the brain stem just anterior to the pons; involved in control of fighting and sexual behaviour and in decreased sensitivity to pain during these behaviours


A region of the brain near the centre of the cerebral hemispheres. All sensory information except smell is sent here and relayed to the cerebral cortex


A region of the brain located just above the pituitary gland; controls the autonomic nervous system and many behaviours related to regulation and survival. such as eating, drinking, fighting, shivering, and sweating

Pituitary Gland

An endocrine gland attached to the hypothalamus at the base of the brain


A chemical substance secreted by an endocrine gland that has physiological effects on target cells in other organs

Target cell

A cell whose physiological processes are affected by a particular hormone; contains special molecules that respond to the presence of the hormone

Autonomic nervous system

The portion of the peripheral nervous system that controls the functions of the glands and internal organs

Sympathetic branch

The portion of the autonomic nervous system that activated functions that accompany arousal and expenditure of energy

Parasympathetic branch

The portion of the autonomic nervous system that activates functions that occur during a relaxed state

Limbic system

A set of interconnected structures of the brain important in emotional and species-typical behaviour; includes the amygdala. hippocampus, and limbic cortex

Limbic cortex

The cerebral cortex located around the edge of the cerebral hemisphere where they join with the brain stem; part of the limbic system


A part of the limbic system of the brain located deep in the temporal lobe; damage causes changes in emotional and aggressive behavior


A part of the limbic system of the brain, located in the temporal lobe; plays important roles in learning


A drug that causes sedation; one of several derivatives of barbituric acid

Antianxiety drug

A "tranquilizer" which reduces anxiety. The most common are chlordizepoxine (librium) and diazepram (Valium)


A class of drugs having anxiolytic ("tranquilizing") effects; examples are Librium and Valium


the decreased sensitivity to a drug resulting form its continued use

Withdrawal symptom

An effect produced by discontinuance of use of a drug after a period of continued use; generally opposite to the drug's primary effects

Naturalistic Observation

The observation of behaviours of people or other animals in their environment

Correlational Study

The examination of relations between two or more measurements of behaviour or other characteristics of people or other animals


A study in which the researcher changes the value of an independent variable and observed whether this manipulation affects the value of a dependent variable. Only these can confirm the existence of cause-and-effect relations among variables

Scientific Method

A set of rules governs the collection and analysis of data gained through observational studies or experiements


Repetition of an experiment or observational study to see whether previous results will be obtained


A statement, usually designed to be tested by an experiment, that tentatively expresses a cause-and-effect relationship between two or more events


A set of statements designed to explain a set of phenomena; more encompassing than a hypothesis


Anything capable of assuming any of several values


Setting the values of an independent variable in an experiment to see whether the value of another variable is affected

Experimental group

A group of participants in an experiment, the members of which are exposed to a particular value of the independent variable, which has been manipulated by the researcher

Control Group

A comparison group used in an experiment, the members of which are exposed to the naturally occurring or zero value of the independent variable

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