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Neuron and Nervous System
Biological Psychology: concerned with the links between biology
and behavior (also called neuropsychology)
Neuron: a nerve cell; the basic building block of
the nervous system
Action Potential: a neural impulse; a brief
electrical charge that travels down an axon
**Neurons that are stimulated cause a brief
electrical charge; if strong enough, the nerve fires
Threshold: level of stimulation required to trigger a neural impulse;
excitatory signals minus inhibitory signals must equal a minimum intensity
Neural Communication
Neurotransmitters: chemical messengers that
traverse the synaptic gaps between neurons
Agonist – mimic neurotransmitters
Example: Morphine mimics endorphins
Antagonist – block neurotransmitters
Example: Poison blocks muscle movement
Acetylcholine (Ach) – Enables muscle action, learning, and memory
**Brains of those suffering from Alzheimer’s have deteriorating Achproducing neurons
Endorphins – natural neurotransmitters linked to pain control
and pleasure
**”Runner’s High” is an example of endorphin release
The Nervous System
Nervous System – body’s speedy, electrochemical communication network
consisting of nerve cells
Central Nervous System (CNS) – brain and spinal cord
**Neural networks – interconnected neural cells; more connections made as
experience gained
Peripheral Nervous System (PNS) – sensory and motor neurons that
connect the CNS to the rest of the body
Sensory Neurons –
sends incoming
information from sense
receptors to CNS
Interneurons – CNS
internal communication
neurons; intervene b/w
sensory & motor
Motor Neurons –
sends outgoing
information from CNS
to muscles and glands
Reflex – automatic response to sensory stimulus; motor neuron reacts to
sensory neuron w/o going to brain
Dendrites – receive messages from other cells and conduct impulses
toward the cell body
Cell Body – the cell’s life-support center
Axon – the extension of a neuron through which messages are sent to
other neurons or to muscles or glands
Myelin Sheath – a layer of fatty cells covering the axon, helps speed
neural impulses
Terminal branches of axon – form junctions with other cells
Aphasia: impairment of language, usually caused by left hemisphere
damage to Broca’s area (impaired speaking) or to Wernicke’s area
(impaired understanding)
Broca’s area: controls language Wernicke’s area: controls language
expression; involved in speech
reception; involved in language
comprehension and expression
telegraphic speech)
Is this caused by damage to Broca’s area or Wernicke’s area?:
”Mother is away her working her work to get her better, but when she’s looking the
two boys looking the other part. She’s working another time.” - ___________
Angular Gyrus: receives visual information and recodes it into auditory
Endocrine System: set of glands that
secrete hormones into the bloodstream
**Snail mail (ES) vs. E-mail (NS)
Pituitary Gland: ES’s most influential
gland; regulates growth and controls other
ES glands
**under the influence of the hypothalamus
Hormones: chemical messengers that are
produced in one tissue and affect another
**Can influence our interest in sex, food,
and aggression
Adrenal Glands: secrete epinephrine
(adrenaline) and norepinephrine
(noradrenaline) to arouse body in times of
Chromosomes: threadlike structures made of DNA molecules that
contain the genes; get 23 from each parent
Identical Twins: twins who develop from a single
zygote (fertilized egg) that splits in two, creating two
genetic replicas
Fraternal Twins: twins who develop from separate
zygotes; genetically no closer than brothers and
How can we study these types of twins to tell us
about the nature vs. nurture debate? 
Heritability: the proportion of variation among
individuals that we can attribute to genes