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physiological, environmental stimuli that fall into our sensory system i.e.-light in our eyes


psychological, refers to the multiple complex processes that result in the interpretation of those sensations (perceptual processes) and the end result of the process

the perceptual processes (in order)

environmental stimulus, attended stimulus, stimulus on the receptor, transduction, transmission, processing, perception, recognition, knowledge

environmental stimulus

anything that can be detected in the senses

attended stimulus

stimulus that is being focused on


energy transformed into electrical signal


neural message sent through nervous system to the brain

top-down processing

processing that involves prior knowledge

bottom-up processing

begins with the information received by the receptors from the external environment

psychophysical level

how a person's perception is related to the stimulus in the environment such as the brightness of a lightbulb and how we perceive it

physiological level

involves the bodies physiological reaction to stimulus such as light and how it effects receptors of our senses

absolute threshold

smallest amount of stimulus energy needed for perception to occur

method of limits

presentation of a stimuli that either increases or decreases one step at a time

method of adjustment

active participation by the subject, such as using a dial to adjust the intensity until it's visible to them

response compression

as stimulus intensity increases the response increases but not as rapidly

response expansion

as the stimulus intensity increases, the perceptual response increases more than the intensity

modular organization

different parts of the brain process different types of information

lobes of the brain

parietal, temporal, occipital

parietal lobe

middle of brain, skin senses, touch, temperature, pain

temporal lobe

bottom of brain, hearing

occipital lobe

back of the brain, controls vision

parts of the neuron

cell body, nucleus, dendrites, axon, myelin sheath, nodes of ranvier

resting potential

negative charge inside neuron of -70 mV

action potential

stimulation from environment causes neurons to fire, cell membrane becomes permeable to sodium and potassium at different times

refractory period

1/1000th of a second it takes for the neuron to go back to its resting potential after it fires. it can fire between 500-800 times a second

excitation (depolorization)

makes the electrical potential of the dendrites of the next neuron more positive so the next neuron is more likely to fire


makes the electrical potential of the dendrites more negative so the neuron is less likely to fire

neural circuits

groups of interconnected neurons, ranging from a few to 100's or 1000's of simple linear circuits

specificity coding

all the informations about a stimulus or event is carried in a single neuron

distributed coding

all information about a stimulus or event is carried in all the neurons of a given population

sparse coding

small portion of neurons carry information about a stimulus

receptive fields

area on receptors that influence firing rate of neurons

center-surround receptive field

base rate of firing with no light in area, decrease firing rate with light shining on area burst of firing when light is off

center surround antagonism

on center/off surrounds, light off center/ on surround

electromagnetic spectrum

arrangement of electromagnetic radiation--including radio waves, visible light from the Sun, gamma rays, X rays, ultraviolet waves, infrared waves, and microwaves--according to their wavelengths

visible light

That portion of the electromagnetic spectrum detected as various colors by the human eye, ranging in wavelength from about 380 nm to about 750 nm.


protective layer of eye (white part of eye)


the adjustable opening in the center of the eye through which light enters


transparent, anterior part of the eyeball covering the iris, pupil, and anterior chamber that functions to refract (bend) light to focus a visual image


a transparent optical device used to converge or diverge transmitted light and to form images


lkayer of light receptors and nerve cells that line the back of the eye


absorb light rays and transform them into information that can be transmitted by neurons, rods and cones


middle of the retina

optic nerve

collection of axons that leave the eye


where the optic nerve leaves the eye, brain fills in area we don't see

visual pigment molecules

light sensitive molecules and transforms light into electrical energy

dark adaptation

has two stages, "fast stage"- increase in cone sensitivity (reason we can see after a few minutes in dark and cones are more sensitive)
"slow stage"- due to increase in rod sensitivity, visual system is controlled my whichever receptor is more sensitive first its cones, then rods become more sensitive

pigment regeneration

process of rejoining opsin and retinal, results in retina becoming dark again, happens quickly in dark

types of cells in the retina

bipolar, ganglion, horizontal, amarcrine


synapse with photoreceptors and ganglion cells, attach to both


axons of these cells form the optic nerve, last cells in retina to transmit information


multiple neurons (receptors) synapsing to a single neuron, rods have more convergence on ganglion cells than cones

lateral inhibition

information transmitted laterally to adjacent neurons

lateral geniculate nucleus (LGN)

located in the thalamus, regulates the flow of info, organized in layers, primary visual area, located in the straite cortex

striate cortex

primary visual receiving area

feature detectors

simple cortical cells, complex, end no

neural plasticity

response properties of neurons can be shaped by our experiences

selective rearing (methods with cats and what it shows)

raised cats in an environment with either only verticle lines or only horizontal lines, they were placed in a cylinder with only horizontal or only verticle lines everyday for five months and when the cats who were only exposed to horizontal lines saw a vertical line, they couldn't see it

what pathway

from the straite cortex to the temporal lobe, object identity, also called the ventral pathway

where pathway

straite cortex to parietal lobe, location of objects, dorsal pathway


one function is absent while another one is present, completely seperate, not a one way street


unable to recognize face recognition


study in behavioral effects of brain damage in humans

cell body

mechanism to keep cells alive, includes the nucleus which is responsible for keeping the cell alive and reproduction


receives information from other neurons


sending information, also called a nerve fiber

myelin sheath

layer of protection and nutritive cells around axons, provides nutrients, speed electrical signal prevents electrical currents from getting lost, kinda like insulation

nodes of ranvier

regularly spaced gaps in myelin sheath

simple linear circuits

simple passing off of the imput

converging circuit

many receptors send information to one cell, as more receptors are stimulated, there is a greater response from that target cell

complex circuits

some receptors excite the target cells while others inhibit

grandmother cell

we have certain neurons for responding to different things such as people and places


out number cones 120 mil-6 mil, located in peripheral retina NOT in the center, respond in faint light so are better used in dark


densely packed in fovea, important for seeing fine detail, responsible for color vision

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