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Chapter 3 of Nairne's "Psychology", Fouth Edition. Biological Processe


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An interdisciplinary Field of study directed at understanding the brain and its relation to behavior.
Central Nervous System
The brain and the spinal cord.
Peripheral Nervous System
The network of nerves that links the central nervous system with the rest of the body.
The cells in the nervous system that receive and transmit information.
Sensory Neurons
Cells that carry environmental messages toward the spinal cord and brain.
Cells that transfer information from one neuron to another; interneurons make no direct contact with the outside world.
Motor Neurons
Cells that carry information away from the CNS to the muscles and glands that directly produce behavior.
Glial Cells
Cells that fill in space between neurons, remove waste, or help neurons to communicate efficiently.
Myelin Sheath
An insulating material that protects the axon and helps to speed up neural transmission.
Largely automatic body reactions that are controlled primarily by spinal cord pathways.
The fibers that extend outward from a neuron and receive information from other neurons.
The cell body of a neuron.
The long tail-like part of a neuron that serves as the cell's transmitter.
Terminal Buttons
The tiny swellings at the end of the axon that contain chemicals important to neural transmission.
The small gap between the terminal buttons of a neuron and the dendrite or cell body of another neuron.
Resting Potential
The tiny electrical charge in the place between the inside and the outside of the resting neuron.
Action Potential
The all-or-none electrical signal that travels down a neuron's axon.
Chemical messages that relay information from one neuron to the next.
A neurotransmitter that plays multiple roles in the central and peripheral nervous systems, including the excitation of muscle contractions.
A neurotransmitter that often leads to inhibitory effects; decreased levels have been linked to Parkinson's Disease and increased levels have been linked to schizophrenia.
A neurotransmitter that has been linked to sleep, dreaming, general arousal, and may be involved in some physiological disorders such as depression and schizophrenia.
Gamma-Amino-Butyric Acid
A neurotransmitter that may play a role in the regulation of anxiety; it generally produces inhibitory effects.
Morphine-like chemicals that act as the brain's natural painkillers.
Refractory Period
The period of time following an action potential when more action potentials cannot be generated.
Somatic System
The collection of nerves that transmits information toward the brain and connects to the skeletal muscles to initiate movement; part of the peripheral nervous system.
Autonomic System
The collection of nerves that controls the more automatic needs of the body (heart rate, digestion, blood pressure); part of the peripheral nervous system.
Electroencephalograph (EEG)
A device used to monitor the gross electrical activity of the brain.
Computerized Tomography Scan (CT Scan)
The use of highly focused beams of X-rays to construct detailed anatomical maps of the living brain.
Positron Emission Tomography (PET)
A method for measuring how radioactive substances are absorbed in the brain; it can be used to detect how specific tasks activate different areas of the living brain.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
A device that uses magnetic fields and radiowave pulses to construct detailed, 3D images of the brain; "functional" MRIs can be used to map changes in blood oxygen use as a function of task activity.
A primitive part of the brain that sits at the juncture point where the brain and spinal cord merge. Structures in the hindbrain, incl. the medulla, pons, and reticular formation, act as the basic life-support system for the body.
A hindbrain structure at the base of the brain that is involved in the coordination of complex motor skills.
The middle portion of the brain, containing such structures as the tectum, superior/inferior colliculus; midbrain structures serve as neural relay stations and may help coordinate reactions to sensory events.
The outer portion of the brain, incl. the cerebral cortex and the structures of the limbic system.
Cerebral Cortex
The outer layer of the brain, considered to be the seat of higher mental processes.
A relay station in the forbrain thought to be an important gathering point for input from the senses.
A forebrain structure thought to play a role in the regulation of various motivational activities, including eating, drinking, and sexual behavior.
Limbic System
A system of structures thought to be involved in motivational and emotional behaviors and memory.
Frontal lobe
One of four anatomical regions of each hemisphere of the cerebral cortex, located on the top front of the brain; it contains the motor cortex and may be involved in higher level thought processes.
Parietal Lobe
One of four anatomical regions of each hemisphere of the cerebral cortex, located roughly on the top middle portion of the brain; it contains the somatosensory cortex, which controls the sense of touch.
Temporal Lobe
One of four anatomical regions of each hemisphere of the cerebral cortex, located roughly on the sides of the brain; it's involved in certain aspects of speech and language perception.
Occipital Lobe
One of four anatomical regions of each hemisphere of the cerebral cortex, located at the back of the brain; visual processing in controlled here.
Corpus Callosum
The collection of nerve fibers that connects the two cerebral hemispheres and allow information to pass from one side to the other.
Endocrine System
A netwrok of glands that uses the bloodstream, rather than neurons, to send chemical messages that regulate growth and other internal functions.
Chemicals released into the blood by the various endocrine glands to help control a variety of internal regulatory functions.
Pituitary Gland
A kind of master gland in the body that controls the release of hormones in response to signals from the hypothalamus.
A trait that has been selected for by nature because it increases the odds of survival and reproduction.
Segments of chromosomes that contain instructions for influencing and creating particular hereditary characteristics.
The actual genetic information inherited from one's parents.
A person's observable characteristics, such as red hair. The phenotype is controlled mainly by the genotype, but it can also be influnced by the environment.
A spontaneous change in the genetic material that occurs during the gene replication process.
Family Studies
The similarities and differences among biological relatives are studied to help discover the role heredity plays in physical or psychological traits.
Twin Studies
Identical twins, who share genetic material, are compared to fraternal twins in an effort to determine the roles heredity and environment play in psychological traits.

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