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CH 2: NEUROSCIENCE AND BEHAVIOR
Our nervous system plays a vital role in how we think, feel, and act. Neurons, the
basic building blocks of the body’s circuitry, receive signals through their
branching dendrites and cell bodies and transmit electrical impulses down their
axons. Chemical messengers called neurotransmitters traverse the tiny synaptic gap
between neurons and pass on excitatory or inhibitory messages.
The central nervous system consists of the brain and spinal cord. The
peripheral nervous system consists of the somatic nervous system, which directs
voluntary movements and reflexes, and the autonomic nervous system, which
controls the glands and muscles of our internal organs.
Hormones released by endocrine glands affect other tissues, including the
brain. The most influential endocrine gland, the pituitary gland, releases hormones
that influence growth, and its secretions also influence the release of hormones by
other glands. The nervous system directs endocrine secretions, which then affect
the nervous system.
Evolution has elaborated new brain systems on top of old. Within the brainstem
are the oldest regions, the medulla and the reticular formation. The thalamus sits
atop the brainstem and the cerebellum extends from the rear. The limbic system
includes the amygdala, the hippocampus, and the hypothalamus. The cerebral
cortex, representing the highest level of brain development, is responsible for our
most complex functions.
Each hemisphere of the cerebral cortex has four geographical areas: the frontal,
parietal, occipital, and temporal lobes. Although small, well-defined regions within
these lobes control muscle movement and receive information from the body
senses, most of the cortex—its association areas—are free to process other
information. Experiments on split-brain patients suggest that, for most people, the
left hemisphere is the more verbal and the right hemisphere excels in visual
perception and the recognition of emotion. Studies of people with intact brains
indicate that each hemisphere makes unique contributions to the integrated
functions of the brain.
Lectures: Sources for Teaching Neuroscience and Behavior; Phrenology
Introductory Exercise: Fact or Falsehood?