The Brain

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  • The Brain
    • the Cerebrum
      • split into 4 lobes
      • frontal lobe - located at the front, responsible for decision making, personality and memory
      • occipital lobe - located at the back, responsible for visual processing
      • parietal lobe - at the top behind the frontal lobe, responsible for controlling movement and our senses
      • temporal lobe - low on the each side of the brain, responsible for memory formation and hearing
    • Hypothalamus
      • controls the release of hormones and regulates drives important for survival e.g. thirst/sleep
      • links the nervous system to the endocrine system via the pituitary gland
    • Neuron
      • neurons are cells that send and receive electro-chemical signals to and from the brain an nervous system
      • consists of a cell body (or soma) with branching dendrites and a projection called an axon.
        • at the other end of the axon, axon terminals transmit the signal across a synapse
      • cell body - main part, has all the necessary components such as the nucleus
      • axon - long, cable-like projection of the cell, carries the electro-chemical message along the length of the cell
      • dendrites - small, branch-like projections, make connections to other cells + allow the neuron to talk with other cells
      • synapse - the gap between two nerve endings
    • pituitary gland
      • releases hormones that control the body's response to stress, growth and the changes that take place in puberty
    • Henry Molaison (HM)
      • underwent an operation to remove his hippocampi to reduce his epliepsy
      • lost all of his memory, up until then it was not known that the hippocampi were involved in memory
        • became unable to make new memories, learn new words, forgot who he was talking to when he turned away, didn't know how old he was
      • for 55 years HM participated in numerous experiments - taught us much of what we know about memory
      • after his death, his brain was dissected into 2000 slices + digitized as a three dimensional brain map
    • Phineas Gage
      • 1848, involved in an accident at work, a metal rod pierced through his skull, destroying most of his frontal lobe
      • he survived but the accident changed him
      • before - he was a hard-working pleasant man, after - became aggressive + unable to keep a job
      • had a big influence on early neurology - led to theories on the localization of brain function
      • we now have a better understanding of the frontal cortex and its functions, including that it is involved in personality
    • Techniques for looking at the brain
      • ERPs - event related potentials
        • pick up the patterns of brain activity by using electrodes on the head
        • valuable for recording changes in electrical activity in the brain
        • useful - give more detailed information than other processes about the time course
        • don't indicate which regions of the brain are most involved with processing
        • not useful for studying complex tasks like problem solving
      • PET - positron emission tomography
        • inject a radioactive marker to build up an image of the active brain
          • produce a 3-dimensional colour image
        • based on studying positrons - atomic particles emitted by some radioactive substances
        • can identify the brain areas involved in a wide range of different cognitive activities
        • do not reveal rapid changes in brain activity that's involved in most thought processes
      • MRI - magnetic resonance imaging
        • use magnets to build up a strong magnetic field that provides an image of the active brain
        • three dimensional image is produced
        • provides spatial information and can show changes in the brain over time
        • only tells us about the structures of the brain and not about the time course


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