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25 Cards in this Set

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Action Potential
a neural impulse; a brief electrical charge that travels down an axon. The action potential is generated by the movement of positively charged atoms in and out of channels in the axon’s membranes.
Amygdala
two almond-shaped neural clusters that are components of the limbic system and are linked to emotion.
Axon
the extension of a neuron, ending in branching terminal fibers, through which messages pass to other neurons or to muscles or glands.
Biological Psychology
a branch of psychology concerned with the links between biology and behavior.
Central Nervous System
the brain and spinal cord.
Cerebellum
the “little brain” attached to the rear of the brainstem; it helps coordinate voluntary movement and balance.
Cerebral Cortex
the intricate fabric of interconnected neural cells that covers the cerebral hemispheres; the body’s ultimate control and information-processing center.
Corpus Callosum
the large band of neural fibers connecting the two brain hemispheres and carrying messages between them.
Dendrites
the bushy, branching extensions of a neuron that receive messages and conduct impulses toward the cell body.
Electroencephalogram
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.
Endocrine System
the body’s “slow” chemical communication system; a set of glands that secrete hormones into the bloodstream.
Endorphins
“morphin within”—natural, opiatelike neurotransmitters linked to pain control and to pleasure.
Hypothalamus
a neural structure lying below the thalamus; it directs several maintenance activities (eating, drinking, body temperature), helps govern the endocrine system via the pituitary gland, and is linked to emotion.
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, amygdale, and hypothalamus.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
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.
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.
Nervous System
the body’s speedy, electrochemical communication system, consisting of all the nerve cells of peripheral and central nervous systems.
Neuron
a nerve cell; the basic building block of the nervous system.
Neurotransmitter
chemical messengers that traverse the synaptic gaps between neurons. When released by the sending neuron, neurotransmitters travel across the synapse and bind to receptor sites on the receiving neuron, thereby influencing whether that neuron will generate a neural impulse.
Peripheral Nervous System (PNS)
the sensory and motor neurons that connect the central nervous system (CNS) to the rest of the body.
Plasticity
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.
Positron Emission Tomography (PET)
a visual display of brain activity that detects where a radioactive form of glucose goes while the brain performs a given task.
Synapse
the junction between the axon tip of the sending neuron and the dendrite or cell body of the receiving neuron. The tiny gap at this junction is called the synaptic gap or cleft.
Thalamus
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.
Phrenology
a popular but ill-fated theory that claimed bumps on the skull could reveal our mental abilities and our character traits.