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biological psychology

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


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


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

myelin sheath

a layer of fatty tissue segmentally encasing the fibers of many neurons; enables vastly greater transmission speed of neural impulses as the impulse hops from one node to the next

action potential

a neural impulse; a breif electrical charge that travels down an axon


the level of stimulation required to trigger a neural impulse


the junction between the axon tip of the sending neuron and the dendrite or cell body of the receiving neuron


chemical messengers that traverse the synaptic gap between neurons


a neurotransmitter that, among its functions, triggers muscle contraction


"morphine within" - natural, opiatelike neurotransmitters linked to pain control and pleasure

nervous system

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

central nervous system

the brain and spinal cord

peripheral nervous system

the sensory and motor neurons that connect the central nervous system to the rest of the body


neural "cables" containing many axons

sensory neurons

neurons that carry incoming information from the sense receptors to the central nervous system


central nervous system neurons that internally communicate and intervene between the sensory inputs and motor outputs

motor neurons

neurons that carry outgoing information from the central nervous system to the muscles and glands

somatic nervous system

the division of the perihperal nervous system that controls the body's skeletal muscles

autonomic nervous system

the part of the peripheral nervous system that controls the glands and the muscles of the internal organs

sympathetic nervous system

the division of the autonomic nervous system that arouses the body, mobilizing its energy in stressful situations

parasympathetic nervous system

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


a simple, automatic, inborn response to a sensory stimulus

neural networks

interconnected neural cells - with experience, networks can learn


tissue destruction

electroencephalogram (EEG)

an amplified recording of the waves of electrical activity that sweep across the brain's surface - these waves are measured by electrodes placed on the scalp

CT (computed tomography) scan

a series of x-ray photographs taken from different angles and combined by computer into a composite representation of a slice through the body

PET (positron emission tomography) scan

a visual display of brain activity that detects where a radioactive form of glucose goes while the brain performs a given task

MRI (magnetic resonance imaging)

a technique that uses magnetic fields and radio waves to produce computer-generated images that distinguish among different types of soft tissue


the oldest part and central coe of the brain, beginning where the spinal cord swells as it enters the skull; responsible for automatic survival functions


the base of the brainstem; controls heartbeat and breathing

reticular formation

a nerve network in the brainstem that plays an important role in controlling arousal


the brain's sensory switchboard, located on top of the brainstem; it directs messages to the sensory receiving areas in the cortex and transmits replies to the cerebellum and medulla


the "little brain" attached to the rear of the brainstem; it helps coordinate voluntary movement and balance

limbic system

a doughnut-shaped system of neural structures at the border of the brainstem and cerebral hemispheres; associated with emotions such as fear and agression and drives such as those for food and sex


two almond-shaped neural clusters that are components of the limbic system and are linked to emotion


a neural struture lying below the thalamus; it directs several maintenance activities, helps govern the endocrine system via the pituitary gland, and is linked to emotion

cerebral cortex

the intricate fabric of interconnected neural cells that covers the cerebral hemispheres; the body's ultimate control and information-processing center

glial cells

cells in the nervous system that support, nourish, and protect neurons

frontal lobes

the portion of the cerebral cortex lying just behind the forehead; invloved in speaking and muscle movements and in making plans and judgments

parietal lobes

the portion of the cerebral cortex lying at the top of the head and toward the rear; includes the sensory cortex

occipital lobes

the portion of the cerebral cortex lying at the back of the head; includes the visual areas, which receive visual information from the opposite visual field

temporal lobes

the portion of the cerebral cortex lying roughly above the ears; includes the auditory areas, each of which receives auditory information primarily from the opposite ear

motor cortex

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

sensory cortex

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

association areas

areas of the cerebral cortex that are not involved in primary motor or sensory functions; rather, they are involved in higher mental functions such as learning, remembering, thinking, and speaking


impairment of language, usually caused by left hemisphere damage either to Broca's area (imparing speaking) or to Wernicke's area (imparing understanding)

Broca's area

controls language expression - an area of the frontal lobe, usually in the left hemisphere, that directs the muscle movements involved in speech

Wernicke's area

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


the brain's capacity for modification, as evident in brain reorganization following damage (especially in children) and in experiments on the effects of experience on brain development

corpus callosum

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

split brain

a condition in which the two hemispheres of the brain are isolated by cutting the connecting fibers (mainly those of the corpus callosum) between them

endocrine system

the body's "slow" chemical communication system; a set of glands that secrete hormones into the bloodstream


chemical messengers, mostly those manufactured by the endocrine system, that are produced in one tissue and affect another

adrenal glands

a pair of endocrine glands just above the kidneys that secrete the hormones epinephrine (adrenaline) and norepinephrine (noradrenaline), which help to arouse the body in times of stress

pituitary gland

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

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