the scientific study of the links between biological (genetic, neural, hormonal) and psychological processes. (Some biological psychologists call themselves behavioral neuroscientists, neuropsychologists, behavior geneticists, physiological psychologists, or biopsychologists.)
a nerve cell; the basic building block of the nervous system.
a neuron's bushy, branching extensions that receive messages and conduct impulses toward the cell body.
the neuron extension that passes messages through its branches to other neurons or to muscles or glands.
a fatty tissue layer segmentally encasing the axons of some neurons; enables vastly greater transmission speed as neural impulses hop from one node to the next.
a neural impulse; a brief electrical charge that travels down an axon.
(1) a period of inactivity after a neuron has fired.
the level of stimulation required to trigger a neural impulse.
a neuron's reaction of either firing (with a full-strength response) or not firing.
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 synaptic cleft.
chemical messengers that cross 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.
a neurotransmitter's reabsorption by the sending neuron.
"morphine within"—natural, opiate-like neurotransmitters linked to pain control and to pleasure.
a molecule that, by binding to a receptor site, stimulates a response.
a molecule that, by binding to a receptor site, inhibits or blocks a response.
the body's speedy, electrochemical communication network, consisting of all the nerve cells of the peripheral and central nervous systems.
central nervous system (CNS)
the brain and spinal cord.
peripheral nervous system (PNS)
the sensory and motor neurons that connect the central nervous system (CNS) to the rest of the body.
bundled axons that form neural "cables" connecting the central nervous system with muscles, glands, and sense organs.
sensory (afferent) neurons
neurons that carry incoming information from the sensory receptors to the brain and spinal cord.
motor (efferent) neurons
neurons that carry outgoing information from the brain and spinal cord to the muscles and glands.
neurons within the brain and spinal cord that communicate internally and intervene between the sensory inputs and motor outputs.
somatic nervous system
the division of the peripheral nervous system that controls the body's skeletal muscles. (Also called the skeletal nervous system.)
autonomic nervous system (ANS)
the part of the peripheral nervous system that controls the glands and the muscles of the internal organs (such as the heart). Its sympathetic division arouses; its parasympathetic division calms.
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 response to a sensory stimulus, such as the knee-jerk response.
the body's "slow" chemical communication system; a set of glands that secrete hormones into the bloodstream.
chemical messengers that are manufactured by the endocrine glands, travel through the bloodstream, and affect other tissues.
a pair of endocrine glands that sit just above the kidneys and secrete hormones (epinephrine and norepinephrine) that help arouse the body in times of stress.
the endocrine system's most influential gland. Under the influence of the hypothalamus, the pituitary regulates growth and controls other endocrine glands.
tissue destruction. A brain lesion is a naturally or experimentally caused destruction of brain tissue.
an amplified recording of the waves of electrical activity sweeping 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 of the brain's structure.
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 of soft tissue. MRI scans show brain anatomy.
fMRI (functional MRI)
a technique for revealing bloodflow and, therefore, brain activity by comparing successive MRI scans. fMRI scans show brain function as well as its structure.
the oldest part and central core of the brain, beginning where the spinal cord swells as it enters the skull; the brainstem is responsible for automatic survival functions.
the base of the brainstem; controls heart-beat and breathing.
the brain's sensory control center, 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.
a nerve network that travels through the brainstem and thalamus and plays an important role in controlling arousal.
the "little brain" at the rear of the brainstem; functions include processing sensory input, coordinating movement output and balance, and enabling nonverbal learning and memory.
neural system (including the hippocampus, amygdala, and hypothalamus) located below the cerebral hemispheres; associated with emotions and drives.
two lima-bean-sized neural clusters in the limbic system; linked to emotion.
a neural structure lying below (hypo) 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 and reward.
the intricate fabric of interconnected neural cells covering the cerebral hemispheres; the body's ultimate control and information-processing center.
glial cells (glia)
cells in the nervous system that support, nourish, and protect neurons; they may also play a role in learning and thinking.
portion of the cerebral cortex lying just behind the forehead; involved in speaking and muscle movements and in making plans and judgments.
portion of the cerebral cortex lying at the top of the head and toward the rear; receives sensory input for touch and body position.
portion of the cerebral cortex lying at the back of the head; includes areas that receive information from the visual fields.
portion of the cerebral cortex lying roughly above the ears; includes the auditory areas, each receiving information primarily from the opposite ear.
an area at the rear of the frontal lobes that controls voluntary movements.
area at the front of the parietal lobes that registers and processes body touch and movement sensations.
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.
the brain's ability to change, especially during childhood, by reorganizing after damage or by building new pathways based on experience.
the formation of new neurons.
the large band of neural fibers connecting the two brain hemispheres and carrying messages between them.
a condition resulting from surgery that isolates the brain's two hemispheres by cutting the fibers (mainly those of the corpus callosum) connecting them.
our awareness of ourselves and our environment.
the interdisciplinary study of the brain activity linked with cognition (including perception, thinking, memory, and language).
the principle that information is often simultaneously processed on separate conscious and unconscious tracks.
the study of the relative power and limits of genetic and environmental influences on behavior.
every external influence, from prenatal nutrition to the people and things around us.
threadlike structures made of DNA molecules that contain the genes.
DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid)
a complex molecule containing the genetic information that makes up the chromosomes.
the biochemical units of heredity that make up the chromosomes; segments of DNA capable of synthesizing proteins.
the complete instructions for making an organism, consisting of all the genetic material in that organism's chromosomes.
identical twins (monozygotic twins)
twins who develop from a single fertilized egg that splits in two, creating two genetically identical organisms.
fraternal twins (dizygotic twins)
twins who develop from separate fertilized eggs. They are genetically no closer than brothers and sisters, but they share a fetal environment.
the subfield of biology that studies the molecular structure and function of genes.
the proportion of variation among individuals that we can attribute to genes. The heritability of a trait may vary, depending on the range of populations and environments studied.
the interplay that occurs when the effect of one factor (such as environment) depends on another factor (such as heredity).
the study of environmental influences on gene expression that occur without a DNA change.
the study of the evolution of behavior and mind, using principles of natural selection.
the principle that, among the range of inherited trait variations, those contributing to reproduction and survival will most likely be passed on to succeeding generations.
a random error in gene replication that leads to a change.