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AP Psych Outline: Chapter 2, pgs 47-83

The Biology of Mind

 Everything psychological is simultaneously biological

 Philosopher Plato correctly located the mind in the spherical
 Aristotle believed mind was in the heart
 Early 1800’s – German physician Franz Gall invented
 a popular but ill-fated theory that claimed bumps on the skull
could reveal our mental abilities and our character traits –
 however, phrenology did correctly focus attention on the idea
that various brain regions have particular functions
 Biological Psychology: a branch of psychology concerned with
the links between biology and behavior (aka behavioral
neuroscientists, neuropsychologists, behavior geneticists,
physiological psychologists, biopsychologists)
 We are biopsychosicoal systems – we are each a system
composed of subsystems that are in turn composed of even
smaller subsystems (cellsorganslarger

 Neural Communication
 Human information systems operate very similarly to those of
 Scientists can study animals to understand our own brain’s
organization – our brains follow the same principals, although
ours may be more complex
 Neurons
 Building blocks of information system = neurons
• Neuron = a nerve cell; the basic building block of the
nervous system
• Sensory Neurons = neurons that carry incoming
information from the sensory receptors to the brain and
spinal cord for processing
• Motor Neurons = neurons that carry outgoing
information from the brain and spinal cord to the muscles
and glands

• Interneurons = neurons within the brain and spinal cord
that communicate internally and intervene between the
sensory inputs and motor outputs – info processed
♦ Most abundant neuron in nervous system

 Each neuron consists of a cell body and its branching fibers

• Dendrite = the bushy, branching extensions of a neuron
that receive messages and conduct impulses toward the cell
• Axon = the extension of a neuron, ending in branching
terminal fibers, through which messages pass to other
neurons or to muscles or glands
 Sometimes very long - ex: the motor neuron carrying
order to a leg muscle
♦ (Axons speak, dendrites listen)
• Myelin sheath = a layer of fatty tissue segmentally
encasing the axon of many neurons; enables vastly greater
transmission speed of neural impulses as the impulse hops
from one node to the next
 If it degenerates, multiple sclerosis results:
communication to muscles slows, with eventual loss
of muscle control
• Action Potential = a neural impulse; a brief electrical
charge that travels down an axon
 neurons transmit messages when stimulated by
signals from our senses or when triggered by
chemical signals from neighboring neurons
 Brain is vastly more complex than a computer, but slower at
executing simple responses (brain activity is measured in
milliseconds, computer activity is measured in nanoseconds)

 Transferring Information
 Neurons (like batteries) generate electricity from chemical
 Chemistry-to-electricity process involves the exchange of ions
(electrically charged atoms)
• Fluid interior of a resting axon has an excess of negatively
charged ions, while the fluid outside the axon membrane
has more positively charged ions

♦ Positive/outside, negative/inside state = resting
• Axon’s surface is selectively permeable- the axon is very
selective about what it lets in
♦ Ex) a resting axon has gates that block positive sodium
• Depolarization- gates open and positively charged ions
enter the axon – causes next gate to open
• Refractory Period- resting pause – neuron pumps the
positively charged sodium ions back outside – then it can
fire again

 Types of Signals
 Excitatory – helps accelerate the nerve impulse
 Inhibitory – bringing impulse to a stop
• If the combined signals are strong enough (exceed a
minimum intensity -- threshold), the neuron fires,
transmitting an electrical impulse, the action potential,
down its axon by means of a chemistry-to-electricity
♦ Threshold = the level of stimulation required to trigger
a neural impulse
♦ Neuron’s reaction is an all-or-none process – increasing
the level of stimulation above the threshold will not
increase the neural impulse’s intensity
♦ A strong stimulus can trigger more neurons to fire and
to fire more often but does not affect the action
potential’s strength or speed

 Neuron Communication
 Sir Charles Sherrington noticed that neural impulses were
taking an unexpectedly long time to travel a neural pathway
• Inferring that there must be a brief interruption in the
transmission, Sherrington called the meeting point
between neurons a synapse
♦ Synapse= the junction between the axon tip of the
sending neuron and the dendrite body or cell body of
the receiving neuron. The tiny gap at the junction is
called the synaptic gap or synaptic cleft

♦ Neurotransmitters= chemical messengers that cross
the synaptic gaps between neurons. When released yb
the sending neuron, neurotransmitters travel across the
synapse and bind to receptor sites on the receiving
neuron (like keys fitting into locks), thereby influencing
whether that neuron will generate a neural impulse.
♦ Reuptake = a neurotransmitter’s reabsorption by the
sending neuron

 How Neurotransmitters Influence Us

 Each neurotransmitter travels a designated path in the brain
and has a particular effect on behavior and emotions
 Some neurotransmitters and their functions:
• Acetylcholine (ACh) – enables muscle action, learning, and
memory – one of the best understood neurotransmitters
♦ Is at every junction between a motor neuron and
skeletal muscle
♦ With Alzheimer’s disease, ACh-producing neurons
♦ If ACh transmission is blocked (during anesthesia) the
muscles cannot contract and we are paralyzed
• Dopamine – influences movement, learning, attention, and
♦ Excess dopamine receptor activity is linked to
schizophrenia. Starved of dopamine, the brain produces
the tremors and decreased mobility of Parkinson’s
• Serotonin – affects mood, hunger, sleep and arousal
♦ Undersupply linked to depression. Prozac and some
other antidepressant drugs raise serotonin levels
• Norepinephrine – helps control alertness and arousal
♦ Undersupply can suppress mood
• GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) – a major inhibitory
♦ Undersupply linked to seizures, tremors, and insomnia
• Glutamate – a major excitatory neurotransmitters;
involved in memory

♦ Oversupply can overstimulate brain, producing
migraines of seizures (which is why some people avoid
MSG in food)
 Endorphins = “morphine within” – natural, opiatelike
neurotransmitters linked to pain control and to pleasure
• Similar to morphine – is released in response to pain and
vigorous exercise (“runner’s high,” acupuncture)

 How drugs and other chemicals affect neurotransmission

• If brain is flooded with opiate drugs, the brain may stop
producing natural opiates
• When drug is withdrawn, brain may then be deprived of
any form of opiate
• Drugs/chemicals affect brain chemistry at synapses – often
by either amplifying or blocking a neurotransmitters
♦ Agonist molecule – EXCITE – by mimicking particular
neurotransmitters or by blocking their reuptake
♦ Antagonists – INHIBIT- by blocking a
neurotransmitter’s function or effect

 The Nervous System = The body’s speedy, electrochemical

communication network, consisting of all the nerve cells of the
peripheral and central nervous systems
 Central Nervous System (CNS) = brain and spinal cord
 Peripheral Nervous System (PNS) = the sensory and motor
neurons that connect the CNS to the rest of the body
 Autonomic – part of the PNS that controls self-regulated
action of internal organs and glands
♦ SYMPATHETIC REGION = arouses/expands energy
(if something alarms, enrages or challenges you, your
sympathetic region will accelerate heartbeat, raise blood
pressure, slow digestion, raise blood sugar, and cool you
with perspiration, making you alert and ready for
♦ PARASYMPATHETIC REGION = calms/conserves
energy (when stress subsides – producing opposite
effects -- decreasing heartbeat, lowering blood sugar,

 The two work together to keep you in a steady,
internal state
 Somatic – division of PNS that controls voluntary movements
of skeletal muscles
 Glial Cells (glia) – cells in the nervous system that support,
nourish, and protect neurons
 Nerves = bundled axons that form neural “cables” connecting
the central nervous system with muscles, glands, and sense
 Neural Networks = the brain’s neurons clustered into work
 Neurons network with nearby neurons. Encoded in these
networks of interrelating neurons is your own enduring
identity (athlete, musician)
 Spinal Cord = an information highway connecting the peripheral
nervous system to the brain (ascending neural fibers send up
sensory info, and descending fibers send back motor-control
• To produce bodily pain or pleasure, the sensory
information must reach the brain.
 Reflex = a simple, automatic response to a sensory stimulus
(such as the knee-jerk response)
• The pain reflex – ex- when finger touches a flame, neural
activity excited be the heat travels via sensory neurons to
interneurons in your spinal cord. These interneurons
respond by activating motor neurons leading to the
muscles in your arm, because the simple pain reflect
pathway runs through the spinal cord and right back out,
your hand jerks from the candle’s flame before your brain
receives and responds to the info that causes you to feel
pain. This is why it feels as if your hand jerks away not by
your choice, but on its own.

 The Endocrine System = the body’s “slow” chemical

communication system; a set of glands that secrete hormones into
the bloodstream
 Although slower than neural messages, they tend to outlast
the effects of neural messages

 Hormones = chemical messengers that are manufactured by
the endocrine glands, travel through the bloodstream, and affect
other tissues
 Adrenal Glands = a pair of endocrine glands that sit just
above the kidneys and secrete hormones (epinephrine and
norepinephrine) that help arouse the body in times of stress
• Helps trigger “fight or flight” response
 Pituitary Gland = the endocrine system’s most influential
gland located in the core of the brain. Under the influence of the
hypothalamus, the pituitary regulates growth and controls other
endocrine glands. Controlled by hypothalamus.
 Thyroid Gland - affects metabolism, among other things
 Parathryoids – help regulate the level of calcium in the blood
 Pancreas- regulates the level of sugar in the blood
 Testis = secretes male sex hormones
 Ovary = secretes female sex hormones
 Brain  pituitary  other glands  hormones  brain
 FEEDBACK SYSTEM reveals the intimate connection of the
nervous and endocrine systems – nervous system directs
endocrine secretions, which then affect the nervous system.

 The Brain – the mind is what the brain does – the brain creates and
controls the emergent mind, which in turn influences the brain
 How do neuroscientists study the brain’s connections to behavior
and mind?
 Clinical observations and lesioning (selectively destroying
tiny clusters of normal or defective brain cells, leaving the
surrounding tissue unharmed) reveal the general effects of
brain damage
 Recording Brain’s Electrical Activity
 EEG (an electroencephalogram) = an amplified recording of
the waves of electrical activity that sweep across the brains
surface. These waves are measure by electrodes placed on the
scalp. – helps identify the electrical wave evoked by stimulus
 Neuroimaging Techniques
 PET (position emission tomography scan) – a visual display
of brain activity that detects where a radioactive form of
glucose goes while the brain performs a given task

 MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) – a technique that uses
magnetic fields and radio waves to produce computer-
generated images of soft tissue. MRI scans show brain
 fMRI (functional MRI) = a technique for revealing bloodflow,
and therefore, brain activity by comparing successive MRI
scans. fMRI scans show brain function.

 Older Brain Structures – increasing complexity arises from new

brain systems being built on top of older ones (ex: a human brain
is a further developed form of a not-so-complex shark brain)
 Brainstem – 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 older brain functions it produces are those that occur
without conscious effort.
• Medulla = the base of the brainstem; controls heartbeat
and breathing, coughing, gagging, swallowing, vomiting
• Reticular Formation = a nerve network in the
brainstem (extends from spinal cord to thalamus) that
plays an important role in controlling arousal, attention,
• Thalamus – the brain’s sensory switchboard. A large
mass of grey matter 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
• Cerebellum – the “little brain” located at the rear of the
brainstem; functions include processing sensory input and
coordinating movement output and balance

 The Limbic System = neural system located below the cerebral

hemispheres; associated with emotions and drives
• Amygdala – two lima bean-sized neural clusters in the
limbic system – linked to emotion, mentality, hormonal
• Hypothalamus – a neural structure lying below the
thalamus; it directs several maintenance activities (eating,
drinking, body temp), helps govern the endocrine system
via the pituitary gland, and is linked to emotion and

•Hippocampus – in temporal lobe; functions include
learning, memory, converting short term memory to long
term memory, recalling relationships in the world
 The Cerebral Cortex = the intricate fabric of interconnected
neural cells covering the cerebral hemispheres; the body’s
ultimate control and information-processing center
• Frontal Lobe – behind forehead, functions include
reasoning, planning, parts of speech, creativity, movement,
emotions and problem solving
 Motor Cortex = an area at the rear of the frontal
lobe that controls voluntary (intentional) movement
• Parietal Lobe = at top of head, toward the rear.
Functions include movement, orientation, recognition,
perception of stimuli, processing of nerve impulses related
to the senses, reasoning.
 Sensory Cortex = Area at the front of the parietal
lobes that registers and processes body touch and
• Occipital Lobe – at back of the head. Functions include
the ability to recognize objects, vision
• Temporal Lobe Above the ears; concerned with
interpreting and processing auditory stimuli. Functions
include hearing, memory, meaning, and language
 Association Areas = Areas that are involved in
higher mental functions such as learning,
remembering, thinking and speaking

 The Brain’s Plasticity

 Plasticity = the brain’s ability to change, especially during
childhood, by reorganizing after damage or by building new
pathways based on experience
 To what extent can a damaged brain recognize itself?
 If one hemisphere is damaged in early life, the other will pick
up many of its functions
 Constraint-induced therapy = aims to rewire brains by
restraining a fully functioning limb and by forcing use of the
“bad hand” or the uncooperative leg. – gradually this therapy
reprograms the brain
 This plasticity diminishes later in life

 Some brain areas are capable of neurogenisis = the
formation of new neurons

 Our Divided Brain

 What do split brains reveal about the functions of our two brain
 Studied by Sperry, Gazzaniga
 Corpus Callosum – the large band of neural fibers
connecting the two brain hemispheres and carrying messages
between them
 Split Brain = a condition resulting from surgery that isolates
the brain’s two hemispheres by cutting the fibers (mainly
those of the corpus callosum) connecting them.
 Split-brain research has confirmed that in most people, the
left hemisphere is the more verbal, and the right hemisphere
excels in visual perception and the recognition of emotion
 Studies of healthy people with intact brains confirm that each
hemisphere makes unique contributions to the integrated
functioning of the brain

 Brain Organization and Handedness

 How does handedness relate to brain organization?
 About 10% of us are left handed. Almost all right-handers
process speech in the left hemisphere (the slightly larger
hemisphere), as do more than half of all left-handers.
 Is handedness inherited? YES - Genes or prenatal factors
influence handedness.
 So, is it all right to be left-handed? YES- there are pros and
cons of both.
• Left-handers are more numerous than usual among those
with reading disabilities, allergies, migraines
• More common among musicians, mathematicians, artists