Introduction to Cognitive Neuroscience
o Forebrain, Midbrian, Hindbrian, Brain Stem
Brain Stem: Includes the midbrain, pons, and medualla from
the top of the spinal cord to the diencephalon (subcortical part
of the brain)
Diencephalon: Thalamus, Hypothalamus control the pituitary
Cerebellum: Controls motor functions, coordination, learning
Ventricles: Remnants of the neural tube from neural
development and hold the cerebral spinal fluid. Function is
unknown but they serve as important landmarks in the PET
scan, MRI scan ect.
Basal Ganglia: Extremely complicated circuits that are similar
to gates that start and stop activity Motor (think Parkinsons
Disease problems initiating movement) and Cognitive.
Microscopic Anatomy of the Brain:
o Shows that there are different types of neurons present in different
regions of the brain. The concentration is not uniform.
o Cortex: Made up of grey matter that have a high concentration of
neurons that are organized in distinct layers.
Layer 4: input layer
Layers 5 and 6: Output Layer
The layers differ in different cortical regions.
a. Neuroscience is a biomedical field of study that focuses on animal
nervous systems at a fairly fundamental level (Reductionism end of the
equation) whereas cognitive psychology is a discipline rooted in the long-
standing interest of natural philosophers and psychologists in
understanding human mental processes.
b. Cognition or the faculty of knowing is considered a largely human
faculty and to me, cognition is the ability to be consciously aware of ones
actions, thoughts, emotions, and external stimuli. Cognition refers to
actions that require problem solving and complex thought rather than
those brain processes and behaviors that involve automatic reflexes.
c. Cognitive neuroscience is not the best definition, but this course
overviews high-end function.
i. Late 1800s: Psychology began and was finally considered to be a
science able to test empirically though experimentation.
1. Measurement: Psychophysics
ii. Introspection to Behaviorism to Cognitive
1. Introspection limited
2. Behaviorism: Watson (Behavior is governed by reward Could take anyone and turn them into anything), Skinner
(operant conditioning), Thorndike
2.Why is cognitive neuroscience as a field still something of a mess compared to say
physics, chemistry or even neurobiology?
a. To begin, let us define cognitive neuroscience as the convergence of
cognitive psychology and neuroscience to describe higher order brain
functions and associated behaviors on the molecular and cellular level.
Cognitive neuroscience is still something of a mess due to the fact that not
only are we examining humans we are attempting to study outcomes that
vary from one individual to the next. Unlike in a physics lab or chemistry
experiment, the outcomes are rarely predictable and describing something
like emotion is much less concrete and quantitative than say, a
compounds heat of formation.
Notes on Chapter 1: The Human Nervous System
Cellular Components of the Nervous System:
o The cells of the nervous system can be divided into two broad categories:
Nerve Cells aka. Neurons:
Specialized cells that generate and propagate electrical
signals over distances that can be up to a meter or more in
humans. Information transmitted in the form of these
electrical signals is the basis of sensation, behavior, and
physiological processes in all animals it is also the source
of the cognitive abilities that reach their most complex
expression in human beings.
Neuroglial Cells: Supporting Cells or Glia.
These cells comprise a variety of cell types that support and
hold together the nervous tissue. Unlike neurons, they are
not capable for electrical signaling but they have a crucial
effect on the speed at which a neurons electrical signals
o Similarities to other cells:
Cell Body: containing nucleus and organelles such as the ER,
ribosomes, Golgi Apparatus, and Mitochondria.
o Distinguishing Features: aka. Specialization for intercellular
Axon: Conveys information in the form of electrical impulses over
distances that range from millimeters to meters in the case of axons
that extend from the spinal cord to the arms and legs.
Dendrites: Receive information from the axonal endings arising
from other nerve cells.
Nerve Cells and their Signaling Functions: NEED TO REVIEW
o Neurotransmitters: molecules that are released from synapses and change the electrical potential across the membrane of the neuron they
Many nerve cells converge on a single target neuron and the
terminal axon branches extend to a number of other target neurons.
o Axon Hillock: A region at which the convergent input is integrated and if
there is enough excitatory stimuli the target neuron will carry the signal
forward to its own target cells.
o Action Potential: A self-regenerating wave of electrical activity that
propagates from its point of initiation at the Axon Hillock to the synaptic
endings at the axons terminus.
o Ion channels/ion pumps are specialized proteins on axonal membranes
that maintain an ionic gradient at a metabolic cost.
o Dendrites: provide the major site for the synaptic contacts from other
The number of inputs that a particular neuron receives is generally
proportional to the complexity of its dendritic arborization: nerve
cells that lack dendrites are innervated by just one or a few other
nerve cells, whereas those with increasingly elaborate dendrites are
contacted by a commensurately larger number of other neurons.
o Synaptic Cleft: Where communication between the presynaptic terminal
and postsynaptic specialization occurs. Neurotransmitter molecules that
are released from synaptic vesicles, or secretory organelles in the
presynaptic terminal, bind to neurotransmitter receptors which are proteins
embedded in the membrane of the postsynaptic specialization.
The binding of neurotransmitters to receptors opens or closes the
ion channels in the postsynaptic membrane, which changes its
1. Transmitter is synthesized and then stored in vesicles.
2. An Action potential invades the presynaptic terminal
3. Depolarization of presynaptic terminal causes opening of
voltage-gates Ca2+ channels.
4. Influx of Ca2+ through channels
Ca2+ causes vesicles to fuse with presynaptic membrane
6. Transmitter is released into synaptic cleft via Exocytosis.
7. Transmitter bind to receptor molecules in the postsynaptic
8. Opening or closing of postsynaptic channels.
9. Postsynaptic current causes excitatory or inhibitory postsynaptic
potential that changes the excitability of the postsynaptic cell.
10. Retrieval of vesicular membrane from plasma membrane.
Neural Circuits: Groups of interconnected neurons
o Afferent Neurons: Nerve cells that carry information centrally or toward
the central nervous system (Brain or Spinal Chord) or toward any neural
processing structure. o Efferent Neurons: Nerve cells that carry information peripherally or away
from the central nervous system.
o Interneurons: Nerve cells that participate only in the local aspects of a
circuit as in many components of the brain.
o Spinal Reflex ARC: Knee-Jerk Response
1. Afferent (toward the CNS) limp of the reflex arc comprised of
bipolar sensory neurons whose cell bodies are located in the dorsal
root ganglia of the spinal cord and whose axons end in the special
sensory receptors in the re