Psychology Module 3&4

Biological psychology

a branch of psychology concerned with the links between biology and behavior. (Some biological psychologists call themselves behavioral neuroscientists, neuropsychologists, behavior geneticists, physiological psychology, or biopsychologists).


a nerve cell; the basic building block of the nervous system.


the bushy, branching extensions of a neuron that receive messages and conduct impulses toward the cell body.


the extension of a neuron, ending in branching terminal fibers, through which messages pass to other neurons or to muscles or glands.

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.

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 membrane.


the level of stimulation required to trigger a neural impulse.


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.


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 transmitter that, among its functions, triggers muscle contraction.


morphine within"- natural, opiatelike neurotransmitters linked to pain control and to pleasure.

Nervous system

the body's speedy, electrochemical communication system, 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.


neural "cables" containing many axons. These bundled axons, which are part of the peripheral nervous system, connect the central nervous system with muscles, glands, and sense organs.

Sensory neurons

neurons that carry incoming information from the sense receptors to the central nervous system.


central nervous system neurons that internally communicate and intervene between the sensory inputs and motor outputs.

Motor neurons

neurons that carry outgoing information from the central nervous system to the muscles and glands.

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

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, inborn response to a sensory stimulus, such as the knee-jerk response.

Neural networks

interconnected neural cells. With experience, networks can learn, as feedback strengthens or inhibits connections that produce certain results. Computer stimulations of neural networks show analogous learning.

Endocrine system

the body's "slow" chemical communication system; a set of glands that secrete hormones into the blood stream.


chemical messengers, mostly those manufactured by the endocrine glands, that are produced in one tissue and affect another.

Adrenal glands

a pair of endocrine glands just above the kidneys. The adrenals secrete the hormones epinephrine (adrenaline) and norepinephrine (noradrenaline), which help to arouse the body in times of stress.

Pituitary gland

the endocrine system's most influential gland. Under the influence of the hypothalamus, the pituitary regulates growth and controls other endocrine glands.


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 heartbeat and breathing.

Reticular formation

a nerve network in the brainstem that plays an important part in controlling arousal.


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.


the "little brain" attached to the rear of the brainstem; it helps coordinate voluntary movement and balance.

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, amygdala, and hypothalamus.


two almond-shaped neural clusters that are components of the limbic system and are 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.

Cerebral cortex

the intricate fabric of interconnected neural cells that covers the cerebral hemispheres; the body's ultimate control and information-processing center.

Glial cells

cells in the nervous system that support, nourish, and protect neurons; "glue cells"- may also participate in information transmission and memory.

Frontal lobes

the portion of the cerebral cortex lying just behind the forehead; involved in speaking and muscle movements and in making plans and judgments.

Parietal lobes

the portion of the cerebral cortex lying at the top of the head and toward the rear; includes the sensory cortex.

Occipital lobes

the portion of the cerebral cortex lying at the back of the head; includes the visual areas, which receive visual information from the opposite visual field.

Temporal lobes

the portion of the cerebral cortex lying roughly above the ears; includes the auditory areas, each of which receives auditory information primarily from the opposite ear.

Motor cortex

an area at the rear of the frontal lobes that controls voluntary movements.

Sensory cortex

the area at the front of the parietal lobes that registers and processes body sensations.


impairment of language, usually caused by left hemisphere damage either to Broca's area or Wernicke's area

Broca's area

controls language expression- an area of the frontal lobe, usually in the left hemisphere, that directs muscle movements involved in speech.

Wernicke's area

controls language reception- a brain area involved in language comprehension and expression; usually in the left temporaal lobe.