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flashcards about the human brain and neural communication


cell body of a neuron


branching extensions of neuron that receives messages from neighboring neurons


long single extension of a neuron covered with the myelin sheath to insulate and speed up messages through neurons

terminal branches

lie at the end of axons; form junctions with other cells

action potential

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


the junction between two neurons (axon-to-dendrite) or between a neuron and a muscle


(biochemistry) a drug that can combine with a receptor on a cell to produce a physiological reaction


chemicals produced by the body during times of physical or psychological stress


stops hormones from fitting into the receptor sites and blocks the receptor

sensory neurons

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

motor neurons

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


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


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

pituitary gland

the master gland of the endocrine system


sensory switchboard, message center


a band of nerve fibers linking the medulla oblongata and the cerebellum with the midbrain

reticular formation

a complex neural network in the central core of the brainstem


the base of the brainstem; controls heartbeat and breathing


the "little brain" attached to the rear of the brainstem; its functions include processing sensory input and coordinating movement output 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 aggression and drives such as those for food and sex. Includes the hippocampus, amygdala, and hypothalamus.


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


brain structure that acts as a control center for recognition and analysis of hunger, thirst, fatigue, anger and body temperature

cerebral cortex

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

frontal lobe

The lobe at the front of the brain associated with movement, speech, and impulsive behavior.

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

occipital lobe

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

visual function

complex processing of visual info, occipital lobe

auditory function

complex processing of auditory info, temporal lobe


a neurotransmitter found in the brain, spinal chord, and parts of the PNS, responsible for muscle contraction


neurotransmitter that influences voluntary movement, attention, alertness; lack of dopamine linked with Parkinson's disease; too much is linked with schizophrenia


a neurotransmitter that affects hunger,sleep,arousal,and mood. appears in lower than normal levels in depressed persons


a neurotransmitter's reabsorption by the sending neuron

gamma-aminobutryic acid

major inhibitory neurotransmitters, helps control anxiety and stress


inhibits the firing of neurons in the central nervous system, but excites the heart muscle, intestines and urogenital tract

rational impulse

we try to force what we see to make sense even when it doesn't

absolute threshold

the minimum stimulation needed to detect a particular stimulus 50 percent of the time

difference threshold

the minimum difference between two stimuli required for detection 50 percent of the time. We experience the difference threshold as a just noticeable difference

sensory adaptation

diminished sensitivity as a consequence of constant stimulation

subliminal message

a stimulus that is presented below the threshold for awareness


retinal receptors that detect black, white, and gray; necessary for peripheral and twilight vision, when cones don't respond


retinal receptor cells that are concentrated near the center of the retina and that function in daylight or in well-lit conditions. The cones detect fine detail and give rise to color sensations.

bottom-up processing

analysis that begins with the sensory receptors and works up to the brain's integration of sensory information

tri-chromatic theory

three different retinal receptors one picks up red, one green, one blue. Theory by Helmholtz and Young. All 3 colors make up the base of other colors.

opponent-processing theory

Herings theory that color perception is based on three systems of color opposites blue-yellow, red-green, and black-white

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