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Flashcards in Biopsychology Deck (41):

Nervous system

Consists of the central nervous system and the peripheral nervous system.


Central Nervous System

Consists of the brain and the spinal cord and is the origin of all complex commands and decisions.


Somatic Nervous System

Transmits information from receptor cells in the sense organs to the central nervous system. It also receives information from the CNS and that directs muscles to act.


Autonomic Nervous System

Transmits info to and from internal bodily organs. I is automatic as the system operates involuntarily. It has 2 main divisions: the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems.


peripheral nervous system

Sends information to the CNS from the outside world and transmits messages from the CNS to muscles and glands in the body.


Endocrine System

One of the body's major information systems that instructs glands to release hormones directly into the bloodstream. These hormones are carried towards target organs in the body.



An organ in the body that synthesises substances such as hormones.



Chemical substances that circulate the bloodstream and only affect target organs. They are produced in large quantities but disappear quickly. Their effects are very powerful.


Flight or fight

The way an animal responds when stressed. The body becomes physiologically aroused in readiness to fight and aggressor or flee.



A hormone produced by the adrenal glands which is part of the human body's immediate stress response system. Adrenaline has a strong effect on the cells of the cardiovascular system-stimulating the hear rate, contracting blood vessels and dilating air passages.



The basic building blocks of the nervous system. Neurons are nerve cells that process and transmit messages through electrical and chemical signals.


Sensory Neurons

These carry messages from the PNS to the CNS. They have long dendrites and short axons.


Relay Neurons

These connect the sensory neurons o the motor or other relay neurons. They have short dendrites and axons.


Motor Neurons

These connect the CNS to effectors such as muscles and glands. They have short dendrites and long axons.


Synaptic Transmission

The process by which neighbouring neurons communicate with each other by sending chemical messages across the synaptic cleft that separates them.



Brain chemical released from synaptic vesicles that relay signals across the synapse from one neuron to another. Neurotransmitters can be divided into those that perform an excitatory function and those that perform an inhibitory function.



When a neurotransmitter (EG adrenaline) increases the positive charge of the post-synaptic neuron. This increases the likelihood that the neuron will fire and pass on the electrical impulse.



When a neurotransmitter (EG Serotonin) makes the charge of the post-synaptic neuron more negative. This decreases the likelihood that the neuron will fire and pass on the electrical impulse.


Localisation of Function

The theory that different areas of the brain are responsible for different behaviour, processes or activities.


Motor Area

A region of the frontal lobe involved in regulating movement.


Somatosensory Area

An area of the parietal lobe that processes sensory information such as touch.


Visual Area

A part of the occipital lobe that receives and processes visual information.


Auditory Area

Located in the temporal lobe and concerned with the analysis of speech based information.


Broca's Area

An area of the frontal lobe of the brain in the left hemisphere responsible for speech production.


Wernicke's Area

An area of the temporal lobe (encircling the auditory cortex) in the left hemisphere responsible for language comprehension.



The brain's tendency to change and adapt as a result of experience and new learning.


Functional Recovery

A form of plasticity. Following damage through trauma, the brain's ability to redistribute/transfer functions usually performed by a damaged area to other undamaged areas.


Synaptic pruning

As we age rarely used connections are deleted and frequently used connections are strengthened.


Hemispheric lateralisation

The idea that the 2 halves of the brain are functionally different and that certain mental processes and behaviours are mainly controlled by one hemisphere rather than the other EG language which is localised and lateralised.


Split-Brain Research

A series of studies which began into the 1960s involving epileptic patients who had experience a surgical separation of the hemispheres of the brain. This allowed researchers to investigate the extent to which brain function is lateralised.


Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI)

Method used to measure brain activity while a person is performing a task that uses MRI technology. This enables researchers to detect which regions of the brain are rich in oxygen and thus are active.


Electroencephalogram (EEG)

A record of the tiny electrical impulses reduced by the brain's activity. By measuring characteristic wave patterns the EEG can help diagnose certain conditions of the brain.


Event-Related Potentials (ERPs)

The brain's electrophysiological response to a specific sensory, cognitive, or motor event can be isolated through statistical analysis of EEG data.


Post-Mortem Examinations

The brain is analysed after death to determine whether certain observed behaviours during the patient's lifetime can be linked to abnormalities in the brain.


Biological rhythms

Distinct patterns of changes in body activity that conform to cyclical time periods. Biological rhythms are influenced by internal body clocks (endogenous pacemakers) as well as external changes to environment (exogenous zeitgebers.)


Circadian rhythm

A type of biological rhythm subject to a 24-hr cycle which regulates a number of body processes such as the sleep/wake cycle and changes in core body temperature.


Infradian Rhythm

A type of biological rhythm with a frequency of less than one cycle in 24hrs (EG menstruation and seasonal affective disorder: SAD.)


Ultradian Rhythm

A type of biological rhythm with a frequency of more than one cycle in 24hrs (EG stages of sleep.)


Endogenous Pacemakers

Internal body clocks that regulate many of our biological rhythms EG. the influence of the suprachiasmatic nucleus on the sleep/wake cycle


Exogenous Zeitgebers

External cues that may affect/entrain our biological rhythms EG. influence of light on the sleep/wake cycle.


Sleep/Wake Cycle

A daily cycle of biological activity based on a 24hr period that is influenced by regular variations in the environment EG the alternation of night and day.