Glossary


Browse the glossary using this index

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A

Action Potential

electrical signal that moves down the neuron’s axon


Adrenal Gland

sits atop our kidneys and secretes hormones involved in the stress response


Agonist

drug that mimics or strengthens the effects of a neurotransmitter


all-or-none

phenomenon that incoming signal from another neuron is either sufficient or insufficient to reach the threshold of excitation


Allele

specific version of a gene


Amygdala

structure in the limbic system involved in our experience of emotion and tying emotional meaning to our memories


Antagonist

drug that blocks or impedes the normal activity of a given neurotransmitter


Auditory Cortex

strip of cortex in the temporal lobe that is responsible for processing auditory information


Autonomic Nervous System

controls our internal organs and glands


Axon

major extension of the soma


B

Biological Perspective

view that psychological disorders like depression and schizophrenia are associated with imbalances in one or more neurotransmitter systems


Broca’s Area

region in the left hemisphere that is essential for language production


C

Central Nervous System (CNS)

brain and spinal cord


Cerebellum

hindbrain structure that controls our balance, coordination, movement, and motor skills, and it is thought to be important in processing some types of memory


Cerebral Cortex

surface of the brain that is associated with our highest mental capabilities


Chromosome

long strand of genetic information


Computerized Tomography (CT) Scan

imaging technique in which a computer coordinates and integrates multiple x-rays of a given area


Corpus Callosum

thick band of neural fibers connecting the brain’s two hemispheres


D

Dendrite

branch-like extension of the soma that receives incoming signals from other neurons


Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA)

helix-shaped molecule made of nucleotide base pairs


Diabetes

disease related to insufficient insulin production


Dominant Allele

allele whose phenotype will be expressed in an individual that possesses that allele


E

Electroencephalography (EEG)

recording the electrical activity of the brain via electrodes on the scalp


Endocrine System

series of glands that produce chemical substances known as hormones


Epigenetics

study of gene-environment interactions, such as how the same genotype leads to different phenotypes


F

Fight or Flight Response

activation of the sympathetic division of the autonomic nervous system, allowing access to energy reserves and heightened sensory capacity so that we might fight off a given threat or run away to safety


Forebrain

largest part of the brain, containing the cerebral cortex, the thalamus, and the limbic system, among other structures


Fraternal Twins

twins who develop from two different eggs fertilized by different sperm, so their genetic material varies the same as in non-twin siblings


Frontal Lobe

part of the cerebral cortex involved in reasoning, motor control, emotion, and language; contains motor cortex


Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI)

MRI that shows changes in metabolic activity over time


G

Gene

sequence of DNA that controls or partially controls physical characteristics


Genetic Environmental Correlation

view of gene-environment interaction that asserts our genes affect our environment, and our environment influences the expression of our genes


Genotype

genetic makeup of an individual


Glial Cell

nervous system cell that provides physical and metabolic support to neurons, including neuronal insulation and communication, and nutrient and waste transport


Gonad

secretes sexual hormones, which are important for successful reproduction, and mediate both sexual motivation and behavior


Gyrus

(plural: gyri) bump or ridge on the cerebral cortex


H

Hemisphere

left or right half of the brain


Heterozygous

consisting of two different alleles


Hindbrain

division of the brain containing the medulla, pons, and cerebellum


Hippocampus

structure in the temporal lobe associated with learning and memory


Homeostasis

state of equilibrium—biological conditions, such as body temperature, are maintained at optimal levels


Homozygous

consisting of two identical alleles


Hormone

chemical messenger released by endocrine glands


Hypothalamus

forebrain structure that regulates sexual motivation and behavior and a number of homeostatic processes; serves as an interface between the nervous system and the endocrine system


I

Identical Twins

twins that develop from the same sperm and egg


L

Lateralization

concept that each hemisphere of the brain is associated with specialized functions


Limbic System

collection of structures involved in processing emotion and memory


Longitudinal Fissure

deep groove in the brain’s cortex


M

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

magnetic fields used to produce a picture of the tissue being imaged


Medulla

hindbrain structure that controls automated processes like breathing, blood pressure, and heart rate



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