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PSYCH 101 (308)
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Brain Basics.docx

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 The human brain has about 40-60 billion neurons. Each neuron can be connected to up to 10,000 other neurons – most complex system You Will Be Expected to Understand:  Basic mechanisms of the brain (neuron)  How we study the mind/brain relationship  Information about laterality in the brain (left vs right)  The functional roles of various brain regions You Will NOT Be Expected To:  Memorize brain anatomy or the anatomy of the nervous or endocrine systems Things to Think About:  Your reality is created by your brain. It is subjective  We know something about o The basic biological and chemical units of the brain o How physical energy in the world is transformed into psychological phenomena (ie how a light wave is translated into your perception of the color red) o The behavioral consequences of damage to a particular part of the brain  We know (next to) nothing about o Consciousness o Volition Brain Basics: The Neuron  The body’s information system is built from billions of interconnected cells called neurons.  The neuron is a building block.  All of conscious/subconscious experiences arise from patterns in neurons.  Interconnected neurons form networks in the brain. These networks are complex and modify with growth and experience. Neuron Communication  Action potential – a brief electrical charge that travels down an axon and is generated by the movement of positively charged atoms in and out of channels in the axon’s membrane.  You can detect these electrical events! Excitatory Threshold  Each neuron receives excitatory and inhibitory signals from many neurons.  When the excitatory signals minus the inhibitory signals exceed a minimum intensity (threshold) the neuron fires an action potential  Refractory period – creates limit on how the neuron can fire  4/1000ths of a second  Action Potential Properties  All-or-none response: a strong stimulus can trigger more neurons to fire, and to fire more often, but it does not affect the action potential’s strength or speed.  Intensity of an action potential remains the same throughout the length of the axon.  It either fires or doesn’t fire, it cannot fire a little bit!! *  Neurons have more (or less) action potential.  Neurons can fire more quickly – there are difference pathways for different things. Synaptic Communication  Neurons don’t actually touch each other. Gaps between neurons (called the synapse)  Neurotransmitters (chemicals) released from the sending neuron travel across the synapse and bind to the receptor sites on the receiving neuron.  Different neurotransmitters work on different pathways in the brain. Lock & Key Mechanism  Neurotransmitters bind to the receptors of the receiving neuron in a key-lock mechanism  A drug can either be agonist or antagonist Agonist  same as excitatory transmitter. Open the gate Antagonist  Binds as well. Won’t cause cell to open. By binding to site, nothing else can come in. cannot open the gate. Reuptake  Neurotransmitters in the synapse are reabsorbed into the sending neurons through the process of reuptake. This process applies the brakes on neurotransmitter action. By blocking this reuptake, it is harder to excite these pathways? Brain Basic Anatomy  Old brain: basic life functions: breathing, arousal, heart beat, etc  Limbic system: emotion, motivation, learning/memory  Cerebral cortex: sensation, perception, languag
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