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Neural Systems: Neurons, Regions and Behavioral Functions

Explain the communication process of neurons in the brain. List some common neurotransmitters and describe their effect on behavior.

Identify the major regions of the brain and what functions of behavior the systems of each region control.

Consider the following chain of events. Describe the sensory process that takes place as the scenario unfolds. See attached.

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Interesting questions! Let's take a closer look, which you can then draw on for your final responses.


1. Write a 350- to 700-word response to the following: Explain the communication process of neurons in the brain. List some common neurotransmitters and describe their effect on behavior.

"Brain Chemicals live inside brain cells known as neurons whose branches connect and communicate with other cells. The chemicals are stored in sacks located at the end of a neuron branch, the site of the synapse, the space where one neuron sends it's message to the next. An electrical charge frees chemicals from their holding tanks making their way across the synapse to the connecting neuron. Neurons form billions of communication lines with other neurons. Neurons serve as the basis of all brain activity. When a neuron fires an electrical impulse it travels down a fiber called the axon until it reaches the end of its line where the chemical molecules are stored. The electrical blast starts the chemical transmissions. The molecules that cross the synapse bombard the receiving neuron which has special receptors set up to bind with them. Molecules that travel through neurons are called neurotransmitters which have been said to modify and shape human behavior' (http://www.maui.net/~jms/process.html).

Common Neurotransmitters and some of their functions ARE:

1. Acetylcholine (ACh)
* Activates motor neurons controlling skeletal muscles.
* Contributes to the regulation of attention, arousal, and memory.
* Some ACh receptors stimulated by nicotine

2. Dopamine (DA)
* Contributes to control of voluntary movement, pleasurable emotions.
* Decreased levels associated with Parkinson's disease
* Over activity at DA synapses associated with schizophrenia
* Cocaine and amphetamines elevate activity at DA synapses

3. Norepinephrine (NE)
* Contributes to modulation of mood and arousal
* Cocaine and amphetamines elevate activity at NE synapses

4. Serotonin
* Involved in regulation of sleep and wakefulness, eating, aggression
* Abnormal levels may contribute to depression and obsessive compulsive disorder
* Prozac and similar antidepressant drug affect serotonin circuits

5. Endorphins
* Resemble opiate drugs in structure and effects
* Contribute to pain relief and perhaps to some pleasurable emotions
* "Runner's high" may be associated with high endorphin levels (http://www.teacherbridge.org/public/bhs/teachers/Lhawkins/H:+AP+Human+Systems+2004-2005+AP+Chapter+48+Common+Neurotransmitters+and+some+of+their+functions.htm).

As mentioned above, Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRI) regulate the neurochemical serotonin by inhibiting the reuptake of serotonin thus depleting the supply by blocking the receptor. This is used to treat depressive symptoms, such as poor appetite, inability to sleep, lone periods of sadness, suicidal thoughts and ideation, etc.. Monoamine oxidase is an enzyme that is found in many parts of the body. In the brain, monoamine oxidase destroys neurotransmitters, such as norepinephrine and serotonin. MAOI inhibitors block the breakdown of those neurotransmitters by limiting the activity of monoamine oxidase (http://www.maui.net/~jms/process.html).

2. Write a 350- to 700-word response identifying the major regions of the brain and what functions of behavior the systems of each region control.

Different regions of the brain regulate different functions of behavior and there is a good reason for this "division of labor". For example, the brain carries out multiple tasks at one time because the brain splits the larger task?driving, for example?into smaller ones: seeing, hearing, moving, and so forth. Even those tasks are split into their component parts or regions. The advantage of this localization of function is when larger jobs are parceled out throughout the brain, they all can be done at once. This "division of labor" adds great speed to our ability to perceive what is happening in the world around us, to analyze it, and then to generate appropriate responses. Dealing with information in this way is called parallel processing. (http://science.education.nih.gov/supplements/nih2/addiction/guide/lesson1-1.htm)

The human brain consists of several large regions that regulate different behaviors and activities necessary for life. These include:

1. The brainstem,
2. Cerebellum,
3. Limbic system,
4. Diencephalons, and
5. Cerebral cortex.

Let's look briefly at the function of each:

1. The brainstem is the part of the brain that connects the brain and spinal cord. This part of the brain is involved in coordinating many basic functions such as heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, eating, and sleeping. Also known as the hindbrain; region of the brain that consists of the midbrain (tectum, tegmentum), ponds, and medulla.

2. The cerebellum coordinates the brain's instructions for skilled repetitive movements and for maintaining balance and posture. Cerebellum is the structure located in the back of the brain (dorsal to the pons) involved in central regulation of movement, such as basic movement, balance, and posture; comes from the latin word meaning "little brain"; is divided into two hemispheres and has a cortex. ...

Solution Summary

This solution explains the communication process of neurons in the brain, lists some common neurotransmitters and describes their effect on behavior. It also identifies the major regions of the brain and what functions of behavior the systems each region control. Supplemented with two figures illustrating the processes and regions of the brain.