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Chapter 2: Neuroscience and Biological Foundations

What is a Neuron?
Nervous system uses chemicals and electrical processes that convey information Brain and the rest of nervous system essentially consists of neurons, cells that communicate electrochemical information throughout the brain and the rest of the body Each neuron is a tiny information-processing system with thousands of connections for receiving and sending signals to other neurons Estimated that each human body has 100 billion neurons Held in place and supported by glial cells, which make up about 90 of the brains cells Glial cells surround neurons, perform cleanup tasks, and insulate one neuron from another so that their neural messages are not scrambled No 2 neurons are the same

Basic Parts of a Neuron


1. Dendrites - Act like antennas, receiving electrochemical information from other neurons and transmitting it to the cell body - Each neuron may have hundreds or thousands of dendrites and their branches 2. Cell Body (Soma) - Accepts the incoming messages - If it receives enough stimulation from its dendrites, it will pass the message on to the axon 3. Axon - Long, tubelike structure like miniature cable that carries information away from the cell body Myelin Sheath - White, fatty coating around the axons of some neurons that insulates and speed neural impulses - Importance becomes apparent in certain diseases such as multiple sclerosis, in which the myelin progressively deteriorates and the person gradually loses muscular coordination Terminal Buttons - Near each axons end, it branches out. The tip of each branch are terminal buttons. - Release chemicals called neurotransmitters

Neurotransmitters
Hundreds of substances known (or suspected) to function as neurotransmitters Some functions are to regulate the actions of glands and muscles, promote sleep, ental and physical alertness, learning and memory, motivation, and emotions. Also influence or may cause psychological disorders including schizophrenia and depression Endorphins - Best-known neurotransmitters - Mimic the effects of opium-based drugs such as morphine they elevate mood and reduce pain - Discovered in the early 1970' Neurotransmitters, Poisons, and Mind-Altering Drugs - Most poisons and drugs act at the synapse by replacing, decreasing, or enhancing the amount of neurotransmitter

Neurotransmitter Serotonin Acetylcholine (ACh) Dopamine (DA)

Norepinephrine (NE) (or noradrenaline) Epinephrine (or adrenaline) GABA (gamma aminobutyric acid) Endorphins

Known or Suspected Effects Mood, sleep, appetite, sensory perception, arousal, temperature regulation, pain suppression and impulsivity. Low levels associated with depression. Muscle action, learning, memory, REM (rapid-eye-movement) sleep, and emotion. Decreased Ach plays a suspected role in Alzheimers disease Movement, attention, memory, learning, and emotion. Excess DA associated with schizophrenia, too little with Parkinsons disease. Plays a role in addiction and the reward system. Learning, memory, dreaming, emotion, waking from sleep, eating, alertness, wakefulness, reactions to stress. Low levels of NE associated with depression, high levels of agitated, manic stress. Emotional arousal, memory storage, metabolism of glucose necessary for energy release. Neural inhibition in the central nervous system. Tranquillizing drugs, like Valium, increase GABAs inhibitory effects and thereby decrease anxiety. Mood, pain, memory, learning blood pressure, appetite, and sexual activity.

How Neurons Communicate


Process of neural communication begins within the neuron itself when the dendrites and cell bodu receive information and conduct it toward the axon. From there, the information travels down the entire length of the axon via a brief traveling electrical charge called an action potential. Step 1: Resting Potential - When axon not stimulated, in a polarized state called resting potential. - At rest, fluid inside the axon has more negatively charged ions than the fluid outside. (results from selective permeability of the axon membrane and a series of mechanisms, called sodium-potassium pumps, which pull potassium ions in and pump sodium ions out of the axon) Step 2: Action Potential Initiation - When at rest axon membrane is stimulated by a sufficiently strong signal, it produces an action potential (depolarization) - Begins when the first part of the axon opens its gates and positively charged sodium ions rush through. The additional sodium ions change the previously negative charge inside the axon to a positive charge thus depolarizing the axon. - All-or-nothing law : think light switch Step 3: Spreading of Action Potential and Repolarization - Action potential (Step 2) produces a subsequent imbalance of ions in the adjacent axon membrane -> action potential spreads to the next section - Meanwhile, gates in the axon membrane of the initially depolarized section open and potassium ions flow out -> allows first section to repolarize and return to resting potential - The Wave Step 4: Sending a Chemical Signal - When action potential reaches the branching axon terminals, the previous electrical impulse is converted into a chemical signal - AP triggers terminal buttons at axons end to release special chemicals called neurotransmitters - These chemicals then flow across a small gap (synapse), to potentially attach to receptors in nearby neurons. Step 5: Receiving a Chemical Sign

- Lock and key: nearby neurons will only accept and receive the chemical message if the neurotransmitter molecules are of the appropriate shape. - Keys will then either excite or inhibit a new AP in the postsynaptic neuron Step 6: Dealing with Left-overs - Excess neurotransmitters reabsorbed by sending neuron (reuptake) - Broken down by special enzymes

Hormones
Endocrine system uses hormones to carry messages Play important roles in maintaining bodys normal functioning ES has control of bodys response to emergencies Pineal Gland Sleep cycle and body rhythms Hypothalamus Controls pituitary gland Pituitary gland Influences growth and lactation; also secretes many hormones that affect other glands Thyroid Gland Controls metabolism Adrenal Glands Arouses the body, helps respond to stress, regulates salt balance, and some sexual functioning. Parathyroid Glands Help regulate level of calcium in the blood Pancreas Controls the bloods sugar level Testes Secrete male sex hormones Ovaries Secrete female sex hormones

Nervous System Organization


CNS: Center of your body, primarily responsible for processing and organizing information. Play important roles in maintaining bodys normal functioning ES has control of bodys response to emergencies

Central Nervous System (CNS)


Neuroplasticity - Brains are capable of changing their structure and function as a result of usage and experience Neurogenesis - Brains continually replace lost cells with new cells - Possibility of curing with stem cells Spinal Cord - highway of information into and out of the brain - Involved in all voluntary movements and can even initiate some automatic behaviours on its own. - These involuntary, automatic behaviours are called reflexes, or reflex arcsflexes - all born with numerous

Peripheral Nervous System (PNS): Connecting the CNS to the Rest of the Body
Involves nerves peripheral to (or outside of) the brain and spinal cord Chief function is to carry information to and from the CNS Links the brain and spinal cord to the bodys sense receptors, muscles, and glands Somatic Nervous System (SNS) - Also called skeletal nervous system - Consists of all the nerves that connect to sensory receptors and skeletal muscles

- Plays a key role in communication throughout the entire body - Two way street first carries sensory information to the CNS and then carries messages from the CNS to skeletal muscles. Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) - responsible for involuntary tasks such as heart rate, digestion, pupil dilation, and breathing - can sometimes be consciously overridden, but normally operates independently - 1. Sympathetic arouses body and mobilizes it for action (fight-or-flight response) - 2. Parasympathetic calms the body and conserves energy (relaxation response) - one is up while the other is down, but essentially balance each other out SYMPATHETIC PARASYMPATHETIC (arouses) (calms) Pupils dilate (widen) Pupils constrict Salivation decreases Salivation Increases Heart accelerates Heat Slows Lungs Dilate Lungs Constrict Digestion and elimination decrease Digestion and elimination increase Sexual climax (orgasm) Sexual arousal (erection, vaginal lubrication) Sweating Increases No sweating

Lower-Level Brain Structures: Hindbrain, Midbrain, and Parts of the Forebrain


Certain brain structures are specialized to perform certain tasks: localization of function

Hindbrain
Automatic behaviours and survival responses Includes the medulla, pons, and cerebellum. Medulla - extension of the spinal cord, with many nerve filters passing through it carrying information to and from the brain - controls many essential automatic bodily functions such as respiration and heartbeat Cerebellum - Cauliflower-shaped. Evolutionarily, a very old structure - Coordinates fine muscle movement and balance - Although the actual commands or movement come from higher brain centres in the cortex, coordinates muscles so that movement is smooth and precise - Also important for some memory, sensory, perceptual, cognitive, and language tasks as well as some learning and conditioning Pons (Bridge in Latin) - Located above the cerebellum and medulla - Involved in respiration, movement, sleeping, waking, and dreaming (among other things) - Contains many axons that cross from one side of the brain to the other

Midbrain
Helps orient our eye and body movements to visual and auditory stimuli, and works with th pons to help control sleep and level of arousal Also contains a small structure involved with the neurotransmitter dopamine Reticular formation (RF) - Runs through the core of the hindbrain, midbrain, and brainstem

- Diffuse, finger-shaped network of neurons filters incoming sensory information and alerts the higher brain centers to important evens. Without your RF, you would not be alert or perhaps even conscious.

Forebrain
Largest and most prominent part of the human brain Includes thalamus, hypothalamus limbic system, and cerebral cortex First here structures are located near the top of the brainstem Wrapped above and around them is the cerebral cortex

Thalamus
2 little footballs joined side by side Serves as the major sensor relay center for the brain Receives input from nearly all the sensory systems and then directs this information to the appropriate cortical areas Also integrates information from various senses and may be involved in learning and memory Injury to thalamus can cause deafness, blindness, or loss of any other sense (except smell) => some analysis of sensory messages may occur here Major sensory relay area to the cerebral cortex -> damage or abnormalities also might cause the cortex to misinterpret or not receive vital sensory information

Hypothalamus
Beneath the thalamus, no larger than a kidney bean Master control center for basic drives such as hunger, thirst, sex, and aggression Also helps govern hormonal processes by regulating the endocrine system Influences the pituitary through direct neural connections and by releasing its own hormones into the blood supply of the pituitary

Limbic System
An interconnected group of forebrain structures Located roughly along the border between the cerebral cortex and the lower-level brain structures Scientists disagree about which structures should be included in the limbic system, but most include the hippocampus, amygdala, thalamus, and hypothalamus Generally responsible for emotions, drives, and memory Role in pleasure or reward Even though limbic system structures and neurotransmitters are instrumental in emotional behaviour, emotion in humans is also tempered by higher brain centers in the cerebral cortex Damage to the front part of the cortex, which connects to the amygdala and other parts of the limbic system, can permanently impair social and emotional behaviour Hippocampus - Involved in forming and retrieving memories Amygdala - Major focus of interest in the limbic system, and particularly in the amygdala - Its production and regulation of emotions (e.g. aggression and fear)

Cerebral Cortex: The Center of Higher Processing

Gray and wrinkled, inch thick, made up of approx. 30 billion neurons and 9X as many glial cells Responsible for most complex behaviours and higher mental processes Plays such a vital role in human life that many consider it the essence of life Without a functioning cortex, we would be almost completely unaware of ourselves and our surroundings

Frontal Lobes
Largest of the cortical lobes, the two frontal lobes are located at the top front portion of the two brain hemispheres (right behind forehead) Receive coordinate messages from all other lobes of the cortex, while also being responsible for at least three additional functions 1. Higher Functions most functions that distinguish humans from other animals (thinking, personality, emotion, and memory). Damage to the frontal lobe affects motivation, drives, creativity, self-awareness, initiative, reasoning, and emotional behaviour. 2. Speech Production left frontal lobe, on the surface of the cortex near the bottom of the motor control area, lies Brocas area, which is known to play a crucial role in speech production. Damage to this area causes difficulty in speech, but not language comprehension. 3. Motor Control at the very back of the frontal lobes lies the motor cortex, which sends messages to the various muscles that instigate voluntary movement.

Parietal Lobes
At the top of the brain, just behind the frontal lobes Contain the Somatosensory Cortex, which interpret bodily sensations including pressure, pain tough, temperature, and location of body parts

Temporal Lobes
Responsible for auditory perception (hearing), language comprehension, memory, and some emotional control Auditory Cortex which processes sound, is located at the top front of each temporal lobe. This area processes incoming sensory information from the ears and sends it to the parietal lobes, where it is combined with visual and other sensory information. A section of the left temporal lobe, Wernickes Area, is involved in language comprehension. Patients with damage in Wernickes area could not understand what they read or heard, but they could speak quickly and easily.

Occipital Lobes
Located at the lower back of the brain Responsible for vision and visual perception Damage to the occipital lobe can produce blindness, even though the eyes and their neural connection to the brain are perfectly healthy. Also involved in shape colour, and motion perception.

Association Areas
Most areas of cortex, if stimulated, produce nothing at all BUT not dormant Clearly involved in interpreting, integrating, and acting on information processed by other parts of the brain quiet areas associate various areas and functions of the brain

Ex: association areas in the frontal lobe help in decision making and planning. A.A right in front of the motor cortex is involved in the planning of voluntary movement.

Split-Brain Research
Corpus callosum thin, ribbonlike band of nerve fivers under the cortex that is the primary connection between the left and right hemispheres In some rare cases of severe epilepsy, surgeons cut the corpus callosum to stop the spread of epileptic seizures from one hemisphere to the other Operation cuts only the direct communication link between the two hemispheres -> reveals what each half of the brain can do in isolation from the other Left Hemisphere Right Hemisphere Language Functions (speaking, reading, writing, Nonverbal abilities (music and art, perceptual and and understanding language) spatiomanipulative skills, recognition of faces, patterns, and melodies, some language comprehension) Emotions (associated with positive emotions) Emotions (associated with negative emotions, emotion expression, and emotion perception) Analytical (figures thin,gs out step-by-step) Synthetic (figures things out by combining to form wholes) Controls and senses the righ side of the body Controls and senses the left side of the body Right visual Field Left Visual Field

Behavioural Genetics
Each of the 46 human chromosomes contains many genes, which are found in DNA molecules Genetics studies are done with twins, adopted children, families, and genetic abnormalities Such studies allow estimates of heritability