Glossary of Psychology- the brain (college level)

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What is a neuron?
a nerve cell, the basic building block of the nervous system
What is a dendrite and what does it do?
the branching extensions of a neuron that receive messages and send impulses toward the cell body
What is an axon and what does it do?
the extension of a neuron, ending in branching
terminal fibers, through which messages are sent to
other neurons or to muscles or glands
What is the myelin sheath and what does it do?
a layer of fatty cells segmentally encasing the fibers of many neurons; makes possible greater transmission speed of neutral impulses
What is a threshold
the level of stimulation required to trigger a
neural impulse
What is Action Potential?
a neural impulse; a brief electrical charge that travels down an axon;
generated by the movement of positively charges atoms in and out of channels in the
axon’s membrane
What is a synapse?
junction between the axon tip of the sending neuron
and the dendrite or cell body of the receiving neuron
What are neurotransmitters?
chemical messengers that traverse the synaptic gaps
between neurons
What is acetylcholine?
a neurotransmitter that, among its functions, triggers muscle contraction
What are endorphins
linked to pain control and to pleasure; natural, opiatelike neurotransmitters
What is the Nervous System?
the body’s speedy, electrochemical
communication system
What body parts does the Central Nervous System (CNS)consist of?
the brain and spinal cord
What is the Peripheral Nervous System (PNS)
the sensory and motor neurons that connect the central nervous system (CNS) to the rest of the body
What are nerves and what do they do?
neural “cables” containing many axons, part of the PNS; connect the central nervous system with muscles, glands, and sense organs
What are sensory neurons and what do they do?
neurons that carry incoming information from the sense receptors to the central nervous system
What are Interneurons and what do they do?
CNS neurons that internally communicate and intervene between the sensory inputs and motor outputs
What is the job of motor neurons?
carry outgoing information from the CNS to muscles and glands
What is the skeletal nervous system and what does it do?
the division of the peripheral nervous system
that controls the body’s skeletal muscles
What is the job of the Autonomic Nervous System?
the part of the peripheral nervous system that controls the glands and the muscles of the internal organs (such as the heart)
What does the Sympathetic Nervous System do?
division of the autonomic nervous system that arouses the body, mobilizing its energy in stressful situations
What is the Parasympathetic Nervous System and what does it do?
division of the autonomic nervous system that calms the body, conserving its energy
What is a reflex?
automatic response to a sensory stimulus
What is a lesion?
a naturally or experimentally caused destruction of brain tissue
Electroencephalogram (EEG)
an amplified
recording of the waves of electrical activity that sweep across the brain’s
CT (computed tomograph) Scan
a series of x-ray photographs taken from different angles
PET (positron emission tomograph) Scan
a visual display of brain activity that detects where a
radioactive form of glucose goes while the brain performs a given task (dye is injected into body)
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; allows us to see structures within the brain.
What is the brain stem, where is it located, and what is it responsible for?
central core of the brain,
beginning where the spinal cord swells as it enters the skull; responsible for automatic survival functions
Where is the medulla located and what does it do?
base of the brainstem; controls heartbeat and breathing
What is Reticular Formation?
a nerve network in the brainstem that plays
an important role in controlling arousal
What is the thalamus, where is it located, and what does it do?
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
What is the cerebellum known as, where is it located, and what does it do?
the “little brain” attached to the rear of the
brainstem; it helps coordinate voluntary
movement and balance
Where is the limbic system located, what does it do, and what parts of the brain are involved?
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.
What is the amygdala?
two almond-shaped neural clusters that are
components of the limbic system and are linked to
What is the Hypothalamus and what does it do?
neural structure lying below the thalamus; directs several maintenance activities (eating, drinking, body temperature); helps govern the endocrine system via the pituitary gland; is linked to emotion
What does the Cerebral Cortex do?
it's the body’s ultimate control and information processing center
What are Glial Cells?
cells in the nervous system that are not neurons but that support, nourish, and protect neurons
What is the job of the frontal lobes?
involved in speaking and muscle movements and in
making plans and judgments
What do the parietal lobes include?
the sensory cortex
What do the occipital lobes do?
include the visual areas, which receive visual
information from the opposite visual field
What do the temporal lobes include?
include the auditory areas
Where is the Motor Cortex located and what does it do?
area at the rear of the frontal lobes that controls voluntary movements
Where is the Sensory Cortex located and what does it do?
area at the front of the parietal lobes that registers and processes body sensations
What is Aphasia?
impairment of language, usually caused by left hemisphere damage either to Broca’s area (impairing speaking) or to Wernicke’s
area (impairing understanding)
What is Broca's area responsible for and where is it located?
an area of the left frontal lobe that directs
the muscle movements involved in speech
What is Wernicke's area responsible for and where is it located?
an area of the left temporal lobe involved in
language comprehension
What is plasticity?
the brain’s capacity for
modification as evident in brain reorganization following damage
What is the corpus collosum and how does it function?
largest bundle of neural fibers; connects the two brain hemispheres; carries
messages between the hemispheres
What is a 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
What is the Endocrine System and what does it do?
the body’s “slow” chemical
communication system; a set of glands that secrete hormones into the bloodstream
What are hormones?
chemical messengers, mostly those manufactured by the
endocrine glands, that are produced in one tissue and
affect another
What are Adrenal glands, where are they located, and what do they do?
a pair of endocrine glands just above the kidneys; secrete the hormones epinephrine and norepinephrine, which help to arouse the body in times of stress
What do the Pituitary glands do?
under the influence of the hypothalamus, the pituitary
regulates growth and controls other endocrine glands

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