Glossary of Neuroscience Words

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z

A

Abducens nerve
Cranial nerve VI - innervates the lateral rectus muscle of the eye. It is the only cranial nerve that originates from the dorsal surface of the brainstem.

Ablation
Removal or destruction of tissue.

Acetylcholine (ACh)
A neurotransmitter found in the brain, spinal cord, neuromuscular junction and autonomic nervous system.

Acetylcholinesterase (AChE)
Enzyme that terminates the action of acetylcholine.

Action Potential
Electrical "all-or-none" impulse that transmits information within the nervous system.

Adrenergic
Associated with catecholamines.

Afferent
Neural information flowing from the periphery to more central areas of the nervous system.

Aging and the brain

Agonist
Chemical that acts like a neurotransmitter; increases the effect of a neurotransmitter.

Alzheimer's disease
A degenerative brain disease. Characterized by memory loss and disorientation.

Amnesia
Partial or complete loss of memory. "Anterograde" amnesia is when people cannot form new memories.

Amphetamine
A synthetic central nervous system stimulant.

Amplitude
The size or magnitude of a signal or response.

Amygdala
Brain structure that is part of the limbic system. Implicated in emotion.

Analgesia
Insensitivity to pain.

Antagonist
Chemical that blocks the action of a neurotransmitter

Anterior
A directional term meaning toward the front.

Anterior Commissure
A small fiber tract that connects the right and left cerebral hemispheres (like the corpus callosum).

Aphasia
Inability to speak or understand language.

Aqueous humor
Fluid in the space between the cornea and lens of the eye.

Arachnoid
Middle layer of the meninges.

Astrocyte (astroglia)
A glial cell that supports neurons.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

Autonomic Nervous System

Autoradiography
Neuroanatomical method using radioactivity that is incorporated into neurons.

Axon
The part of the neuron that takes information AWAY from the cell body.

Axodendritic (synapse)
A synapse formed by contact between a presynaptic axon and a postsynaptic dendrite.

B

Basal Ganglia
Areas of the brain that are important from movement. These areas include the putamen, caudate nucleus, globus pallidus, subthalamic nucleus and substantia nigra.

Bipolar neuron
Neuron with only two processes extending from the cell body.

Blood Brain Barrier
A system of astrocytes and capillaries in the brain that prevents the passage of specific substances.

Brainstem
The central core of the brain.

C

Cauda equina
The "horse's tail" made up of a bundle of spinal nerves at the base of the spinal cord.

Caudal
A directional term meaning toward the tail end.

Cell Body
Also called the soma; the part of the cell that contains the nucleus.

Central Nervous System
The brain and spinal cord.

Central Sulcus
Large groove in the brain that separates the frontal and parietal lobes.

Cerebellum
Area of the brain above the pons and medulla that is important for balance and posture.

Cerebral Aqueduct
Part of the ventricular system that connects the third and fourth ventricles.

Cerebral Cortex
Outermost layer (the gray matter) of the cerebral hemisphere.

Cerebrospinal Fluid (CSF)
Clear fluid in the ventricular system.

Chimeric Figure
Figure using two separate faces on each half. These figures are used in split brain experiments.

Choroid Plexus
Vascular structures in the ventricular system that produce cerebrospinal fluid.

Cingulate Cortex
Part of the limbic system. Located directly above the corpus callosum. Important for emotional behavior.

Circadian
About one day; used to describe some body rhythms.

Cochlea
Inner ear structure important for hearing.

Cone
Receptor found in the retina important for color vision and detailed sight.

Cornea
Transparent front coat of the eye.

Corpus Callosum
Large collection of axons that connect the left and right hemispheres of the brain.

Cranial Nerves
12 pairs of nerves that exit from the brain.

Cranium
The part of the skull that contains the brain.

D

Dendrite
Extensions from the neuron cell body that take information TO the cell body.

Depolarization
Movement of the membrane potential toward 0 mV; a decrease in polarization.

Dopamine
A neurotransmitter found in many areas of the brain. Important for movement and other behavior.

Dorsal Root
Bundle of nerve fibers taking information into the spinal cord.

Drug Effects on the Brain

Dura
Outermost layer of the meninges.

E

Electroencephalogram (EEG)
Record of electrical activity of the brain obtained from scalp electrodes.

Endorphin
Neurotransmitter with similar properties as opiates. Important for pain reduction.

Excitatory Postsynaptic Potential (EPSP)
A graded depolarization of the postsynaptic cell.

F

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

Fornix
Pathway that connects the hippocampus with the mamillary bodies.

Fovea
Central part of retina; area of retina with most accurate vision.

G

Glia
Non-neural support cells of the nervous system.

Gyrus (plural is gyri)
"Hills" or "bumps" on the brain that are separated by fissures.

H

Hippocampus
Area of the limbic system important for memory.

Hormones
Chemicals used by endocrine system to transmit messages.

Hypothalamus
Brain structure that monitors internal environment and attempts to maintain balance of these systems. Controls the pituitary.

I

Inferior Colliculus
Midbrain structure important for hearing.

Iris
Muscles of eye that control the size of the pupil. Gives color to the eye.

J

K

L

Lens
Transparent structure in the eye that focuses light on the retina.

Lesion
Injury caused by destruction of tissue.

Limbic System (or Limbic Areas)
Interconnected areas of the brain important for emotional and other behaviors.

M

Medulla
Part of the brain stem important for breathing, respiration and other behaviors.

Meninges
Series of 3 membranes (dura mater, arachnoid, pia mater) that cover the brain and spinal cord.

Myelin Sheath
Fatty substance that surrounds some axons.

N

Neurotransmitters
Chemicals that transmit information across the synapse to communicate from one neuron to another.

Node of Ranvier
Short unmyelinated segment of an axon.

O

Occipital Lobe
Area of the brain located behind the parietal lobe and temporal lobe and responsible for vision.

Optic Chiasm
Crossing of the fibers from each retina.

Ossicles
Bones in the middle ear.

P

Parkinson's disease
Neurological disorder caused by damage to the dopamine system of the brain; symptoms include tremor, rigidity, slow movement.

Pia
Inner most layer of the meninges. Adjacent to the surface of the brain.

Pituitary
"Master" gland attached to the base of the brain that secretes hormones.

Pons
Area of the brainstem between the medulla and the midbrain.

Proprioceptor
Sensory receptor providing information related to body position, mainly in muscles and tendons
.

Q

R

Retina
Innermost layer of the eye; contains receptors responsive to light.

Rod
Receptor found in the retina important for in low light conditions.

S

Soma
The neuron cell body. Contains the nucleus.

Sulcus (plural is sulci)
Groove located on the surface of the brain.

Synapse
Functional connection between a terminal of one neuron with a membrane of another neuron.

T

Tectum
"Roof" of the midbrain.

Tegmentum
"Floor" of the midbrain.

Thalamus
Group of nuclei in the diencephalon of the brain. The different nuclei have sensory and motor functions.

U

V

Ventricles
Hollow spaces within the brain that are filled with cerebrospinal fluid.

W
X
Y
Z


If you did not find the word you were looking for, try these glossaries:

  1. Glossary - Brain Tumor Terms
  2. Glossary - Vestibular Terms
  3. Glossary - Vision Terms
  4. Glossary of Neuroscience Terms
  5. Glossary - W. Calvin's The Cerebral Code
  6. Glossary - Psychiatry and Neurology
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