Welcome to the AP Psych Neuroscience page!

Here you will find a review of all of the topics in the Neuroscience unit.

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The Nervous System

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Central Nervous System

Consists of the brain and the spinal cord

Peripheral Nervous System

The sensory and motor neurons that connect the central nervous system
to the rest of the body. Consists of all of the body's nervous other than
the brain and the spinal cord.

Somatic Nervous System

The division of the peripheral nervous system that controls the body's
skeletal muscles (voluntary movements).

Autonomic Nervous System

The part of the peripheral nervous system that controls the glands and
the muscles of internal organs such as the heart.

Sympathetic Nervous System

The division of the autonomic nervous system that arouses the body,
mobilizing its energy in stressful situations (diagram below).

Parasympathetic Nervous System

The division of the autonomic nervous system that calms the body,
conserving its energy (diagram below).

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The Neuron

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Neuron - a nerve cell; the basic building block of the nervous system.
Dendrites - the bushy, branching extensions of a neuron that receive
messages and conduct impulses toward the cell body.
Axon - 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 encasing the fibers of many
neurons; allows for greater transmission speed of neural impulses as
the impulse travels from one node to the next.
Soma (cell body) - houses the cell's nucleus which allows it to function.
Synapse - the junction between the axon tip of the sending neuron and
the dendrite of the receiving neuron. Also called the synaptic gap or

Action Potential - a neural impulse; a brief electrical charge that travels
down an axon. Generated by the movement of positively charged ions
in and out of channels in the axon's membrane.
Polarization - when a neuron is negatively charged, not receiving any
impulse, "at rest".
Threshold - the level of stimulation required to trigger a neural impulse.
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Sensory Neurons (Afferent)

Neurons that carry incoming information from the sense receptors to the
central nervous system. In the diagram above, the sensory neurons
carry an impulse from the skin's sensory receptors to the spinal cord's


Neurons which are apart of the central nervous system that internally
communicate and intervene between the sensory inputs and motor
outputs. In the diagram above, the interneurons carry the impulse
from the sensory neurons to the motor neurons.

Motor Neurons (Efferent)

Neurons that carry outgoing information from the central nervous system
to the muscles and glands. In the diagram above, the motor neurons
receive the impulse from the interneurons and send it to a receptor on
a muscle cell.

The Brain

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Medulla [6]- base of the brain stem; controls heartbeat and breathing
Reticular Formation [10]- a nerve network in the brain stem that plays an important
role in controlling arousal
Thalamus [3]- the brain's sensory switchboard, located at the top of the brain stem;
it directs messages to the sensory receiving areas in the cortex and transmits replies
to the cerebellum and the medulla
Cerebellum [5]- the “little brain” attached to the rear of the brain stem; its functions
include processing sensory input and coordinating movement output and balance
Pons [7]- a structure located on the brain stem above the medulla; responsible for
sleep and dreaming

Limbic System

Hippocampus [2]- a neural structure of the brain that is responsible for factual
memories (declarative) or episodic memories
Amygdala- two lima bean-sized neural clusters that are linked to emotional memory
Hypothalamus [9]- a neural structure lying below the thalamus; directs several
maintenance activities such as eating, drinking and body temperature; helps govern
endocrine system via the pituitary gland

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Cerebral Cortex

Frontal Lobe- a portion of the cerebral cortex lying just behind the forehead; involved in
speaking, muscle movements and in making plans and judgments
Parietal Lobe- the portion of the cerebral cortex lying at the top of the head and toward
the rear; receives sensory input for touch and body position
Temporal Lobe- the portion of the cerebral cortex roughly above the ears; includes
auditory areas, each of which receives auditory information primarily from the
opposite ear
Occipital Lobe- the portion of the cerebral cortex lying at the back of the head; includes
visual areas which receive visual information from opposite visual fields
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 touch and movement sensations
Association Areas- areas of the cerebral cortex that are not involved in primary motor or
sensory functions; they are involved in higher mental function such as learning,
remembering, thinking and speaking

Broca's Area- located in the frontal lobe, usually in the left hemisphere; directs the muscle
movements involved in speech and controls language expression
Broca's Aphasia- a patients inability to comprehend language or speak using appropriate,
meaningful words


Wernicke's Area- located in the left temporal lobe; involved in language comprehension,
expression and reception
Wernicke's Aphasia- a patient can speak with normal grammar, syntax, rate intonation and
stress, but they are unable to understand language in its written or spoken form


Hemispheric Specialization

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Left Brain

  • Controls the right side of your body
  • Great with:
    • language
    • logic
    • calculations
    • grammar
    • syntax
    • vocabulary

Right Brain

  • Controls the left side of your body
  • Great with:
    • facial recognition
    • spacial tasks
    • creativity
    • patterns

Split Brain Patients

Corpus Callosum- the large band of neural fibers connecting the two
brain hemispheres and carrying messages between them. Some patients
must have the corpus callosum severed because of a specific dysfunction
(most commonly seizures). When it is severed, the two hemispheres can
not longer communicate with each other, and process information


Brain Plasticity-the brain's capacity for modification, as evident in brain
reorganization following damage (especially in children) and in
experiements on the effects of experience on brain development.



Acetylcholine (ACh)- a neurotransmitter that enables learning, memory and
triggers muscle contractions. A deficiency of acetylcholine can cause Alzheimer's
disease as the ACh producing neurons deteriorate.


Dopamine- a neurotransmitter that influences movement, learning, attention, and
emotion. Excess dopamine can lead to Schizophrenia. A deficit of dopamine can
cause the brain to produce tremors and can lead to decreased mobility.

Serotonin- a neurotransmitter that affects mood, hunger, sleep, and arousal.
An under supply of serotonin is linked to depression. Depression is treated
with drugs such as Prozac which is an SSRI and raises serotonin levels.


GABA- gamma-aminobutyric acid; a major inhibitory neurotransmitter. An under
supply of GABA is linked to seizures, tremors and insomnia.

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Glutamate- a major excitatory neurotransmitter involved in memory. An oversupply
can overstimulate the brain, producing migraines or seizures. For this reason, some
people avoid MSG (monosodium glutamate) in foods.
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Endorphins- a natural opiate produces by the body that act as neurotransmitters.
Endorphins create pleasure and control pain.

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Agonist- a certain type of drug that excites or mimics the effects of a neurotransmitter.
Ex. Cocaine is a dopamine agonist.
Antagonist- a certain type of drug that inhibits or blocks a neurotransmitter.
Ex. an antihistamine drug is a histamine antagonist.


EEG (electroencephalogram)- an amplified recording of the waves of electrical activity
that sweep across the brain's surface. These waves are measured by electrodes place
on the scalp.


MRI (magnetic resonance imaging)- a technique that uses magnetic fields and radio
waves to procude computer-generated images that distinguish among differnent types
of soft tissue structures. Shows brain anatomy.


fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging)- Similar to MRI, but also reveals blood flow
to certain parts of the brain, showing brain activity. Shows brain function.
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PET (positron emission tomography)- a visual display of brain activity that detects where a
radopactive form of glucose goes while the brain preforms a given task.


CAT (computer axial tomography)- also known as a CT scan; a visual 3D display of
the brain that is used for detecting brain structure. It tells us nothing about function. It's
very good for tumor location.

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Source: BCS Worth Publishers, Psychology, David G. Myers (textbook)