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Chapter 3

Biological Psychology

a branch of psychology concerned with the links between biology and behavior

Nervous System

the body's speedy, electrochemical communication system, consisting of all the nerve cells of the peripheral and central nervous systems


A nerve cell; the basic building block of the nervous system

Glial Cells

Cells in the nervous system that are not neurons but that support, nourish, and protect neurons


the extension of a neuron, ending in branching terminal fibers, through which messages pass to other neurons or to muscles or glands.


a branch off the cell body of a neuron that receives new information from other neurons


location at which a neuron can transfer an impulse to another cell

Action Potential

a neural impulse; a brief electrical charge that travels down an axon. The action potential is generated by the movement of positively charged atoms in and out of channels in the axon's membrane.


a fatty substance that helps insulate neurons and speeds the transmission of nerve impulses

Refractory Period

the time following an action potential during which a new action potential cannot be initiated


chemicals that transmit information from one neuron to another


sites on the surface of a cell that allow only one type of neurotransmitter to fit through and trigger a chemical response that may lead to an action potential

Postsynaptic Potential

the change in the membrane potential of a neuron that has received stimulation from another neuron

Excitatory Postsynaptic Potential

a postsynaptic potential that depolarizes the neuronal membrane, making the cell more likely to fire an action potential

Inhibitory Postsynaptic Potential

a postsynaptic potential that hyperpolarizes the neuronal membrane, making a cell less likely to fire an action potential

Three Functions of the Nervous System

1. INPUT: the sound of the alarm clock is conveyed to your brain by your ears
2. PROCESSING: your brain knows from past experience that it is time to get up
3. OUTPUT: your brain directs the muscles of your arm and hand to reach out and shut off the alarm clock

How Do Neurons Communicate?

1. An ACTION POTENTIAL shoots down the AXON, away from the cell body.
2. A NEUROTRANSMITTER is release into the SYNAPSE, where the DENDRITES or the neighboring neurons detect it.
3. If there is a receptor for this neurotransmitter on the dendrites, the neurotransmitter and receptor bind, creating an electrochemical signal.
4. If that signal is strong enough, it spreads down the dendrites and across the cell body of the next neuron, and begins another action potential.

Neural Networks

interconnected neural cells that operate together to perform complex functions

Sensory Systems

the parts of the nervous system that provide information about the environment

Motor Systems

the parts of the nervous system that influence muscles and other organs to respond to the environment in some way

Peripheral Nervous System (PNS)

the parts of the nervous system not housed in bone

Central Nervous System (CNS)

the part of the nervous system that are located in bone (the brain and spinal cord)

Somatic Nervous System

(AKA Skeletal Nervous System) the division of the peripheral nervous system that controls the body's skeletal muscles

Autonomic Nervous System

the part of the nervous system of vertebrates that controls involuntary actions of the smooth muscles, heart, and glands; divided into Sympathetic and Parasympathetic systems

Sympathetic Nervous System

a branch of the autonomic nervous system and prepares the body for quick action in emergencies; "fight or flight"

Parasympathetic Nervous System

the division of the autonomic nervous system that calms the body, conserving its energy


collections of nerve cell bodies in the central nervous system

Fiber Tracts/Pathways

axons in the central nervous system that travel together in bundles

Spinal Cord

a column of nerves within the spine that transmits messages to and from the brain


unlearned, involuntary responses that occur automatically in the presence of certain stimuli

Feedback System

cycle of events in which body's status is monitored, changed, and reevaluated; EXAMPLE: when you touch a hot stove, your muscles contract away from the stimulus, but in order to do that, another set of muscles would have had to relax

Afferent Neurons

Neurons that transmit messages from sense organs to the central nervous system.

Efferent Neurons

(AKA motor neurons) nerves that carry impulses away from the brain and spinal cord to the muscles and glands


division which includes the cerebellum, Pons, and medulla; responsible for involuntary processes: blood pressure, body temperature, heart rate, breathing, sleep cycles


part of the brain nearest the spinal cord which controls breathing, heart rate and blood pressure

Reticular Formation

a network of cells in the brainstem that filters sensory information and is involved in arousal and alertness

Locus Coeruleus

a small nucleus in the reticular formation that is involved in directing attention


the "little brain" attached to the rear of the brainstem; its functions include processing sensory input and coordinating movement output and balance; also involved in impulse control, emotion, and language

Brain Stem

the part of the brain that lies between the cerebellum and spinal cord that controls the body's involuntary actions


a brain structure located at the top of the brain stem that is involved in respiration, movement, and sleep


the middle division of brain responsible for hearing and sight; location where pain is registered; includes temporal lobe, occipital lobe, and most of the parietal lobe

Substantia Nigra

an area of the midbrain that is involved in motor control and contains a large concentration of dopamine-producing neurons.


a structure within the forebrain that is involved in the smooth beginning of movement

Occipital Lobe

portion posterior to the parietal and temporal lobes, responsible for vision

Parietal Lobe

portion posterior to the frontal lobe, responsible for sensations such as pain, temperature, and touch

Temporal Lobe

portion that lies below the frontal lobe, responsible for hearing, taste, and smell

Corpus Callosum

the large band of neural fibers connecting the two brain hemispheres and carrying messages between them

Pituitary Gland

endocrine system's most influential gland; under the influence of the hypothalamus, the pituitary regulates growth and controls other endocrine glands

Wernicke's Area

controls language reception - a brain area involved in language comprehension and expression; usually in the left temporal lobe

Brocca's Area

responsible for the production of the sounds of speech; brocca's area and the wernicke's area are only in humans


top of the brain which includes the thalamus, hypothalamus, and cerebral cortex; responsible for emotional regulation, complex thought, memory aspect of personality

Frontal Lobe

front of the brain; associated with reasoning, planning, parts of speech, movement, emotions, and problem solving

Limbic System

neural system (including the hippocampus, amygdala, and hypothalamus) located below the cerebral hemispheres; associated with emotions and drives.


brain structure that receives messages from the sense organs and relays the information to the proper region of the cerebrum for further processing


brain structure below the thalamus; directs eating, drinking, body temperature; helps govern the endocrine system via the pituitary gland, and is linked to emotion


limbic system component associated with emotion, particularly fear and anger


neural centre located in the limbic system that helps process explicit memories for storage.

Suprachiasmatic Nuclei

pair of hypothalamic nuclei, one on the left and one on the right, that play a role in the timing of 24 hour biological rhythims; they are located just dorsal to the optic chiasm.

Cerebral Hemispheres

the right and left halves of the cerebrum

Cerebral Cortex

the layer of unmyelinated neurons (the gray matter) forming the cortex (outer surface) of the cerebrum

Sensory Cortex

the area at the front of the parietal lobes that registers and processes body touch and movement sensations; includes visual, auditory, and somatosensory cortexes

Visual Cortex

located in the occipital lobe; the main information-processing center for visual information

Auditory Cortex

an area in the temporal lobe of the brain that is responsible for hearing

Somatosensory Cortex

a brain area at the front of the parietal lobes that registers and processes body sensations

Motor Cortex

an area at the rear of the frontal lobes that controls voluntary movements

Association Cortex

areas of the cortex that communicate with the sensory and motor areas and house the brain's higher mental processes


referring to the tendency for one cerebral hemisphere to excel at a particular function or skill compared with the other hemisphere


ability to create new synapses and change the strength of synapses

Neurotransmitter System

a group of neurons that communicates by using the same neurotransmitter


a neurotransmitter that triggers muscle contraction and enables learning and memory; loss of acetylcholine causes Alzheimer's disease


neurotransmitter that is involved in arousal and the fight-or-flight system (also mood, sleep, and learning)


affects mood, appetite, sleep, and arousal; ongoing research suggests that a lack of seratonin is linked to depression


neurotransmitter related to pleasure; addictions are caused by the addict searching for a drug that causes a firing of dopamine through the body; lack of dopamine linked with Parkinson's disease, too much is linked with schizophrenia

Gamma Amino Butyric Acid (GABA)

the body's chief inhibitory neurotransmitter, which plays a role in regulating arousal; loss of GABA causes Huntington's Disease


major excitatory neurotransmitter (strengthens synaptic bonds in the CNS); affects memory and learning


natural, opiatelike neurotransmitters linked to pain control and to pleasure

The Endocrine System

is a collection of glands that produce hormones which help regulate the body's growth, metabolism, and sexual development and function


an organ of the body that secretes one or more hormones into the bloodstream


chemical messengers released by the endocrine glands that travel through the bloodstream and affect other tissues


gland of the endocrine system that produces hormones that regulate metabolism

Adrenal Cortex (Shell)

regulates carbohydrate/salt metabolism

Adrenal Medulla (Core)

prepare the body for action


gland that produces hormones that regulate blood sugar by releasing glucagon or insulin as needed


located one on each side of the uterus in the female pelvis, functioning to secrete estrogen and progesterone


male reproductive organs that produce sperm and secrete male sex hormones

The Immune System

complex group of defenses found in the body that fight against harmful substances and pathogens

Autoimmune Disorders

physical problems caused when cells of the body's immune system attack normal body cells as if they were foreign invaders

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