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Techniques Involving Electrical Activity

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In some situations, it is helpful to gain an understanding of the overall activity of a person’s brain, without needing information on the actual location of the activity. Electroencephalography (EEG) serves this purpose by providing a measure of a brain’s electrical activity. An array of electrodes is placed around a person’s head (Figure 3.29). The signals received by the electrodes result in a printout of the electrical activity of his or her brain, or brainwaves, showing both the frequency (number of waves per second) and amplitude (height) of the recorded brainwaves, with an accuracy within milliseconds. Such information is especially helpful to researchers studying sleep patterns among individuals with sleep disorders.

Figure 3.29 Using caps with electrodes, modern EEG research can study the precise timing of overall brain activities. (credit: SMI Eye Tracking)


Chapter 3 | Biopsychology 103



3.5 The Endocrine System

Learning Objectives

By the end of this section, you will be able to: • Identify the major glands of the endocrine system • Identify the hormones secreted by each gland • Describe each hormone’s role in regulating bodily functions

The endocrine system consists of a series of glands that produce chemical substances known as hormones (Figure 3.30). Like neurotransmitters, hormones are chemical messengers that must bind to a receptor in order to send their signal. However, unlike neurotransmitters, which are released in close proximity to cells with their receptors, hormones are secreted into the bloodstream and travel throughout the body, affecting any cells that contain receptors for them. Thus, whereas neurotransmitters’ effects are localized, the effects of hormones are widespread. Also, hormones are slower to take effect, and tend to be longer lasting.

Figure 3.30 The major glands of the endocrine system are shown.

Hormones are involved in regulating all sorts of bodily functions, and they are ultimately controlled through interactions between the hypothalamus (in the central nervous system) and the pituitary gland (in the endocrine system). Imbalances in hormones are related to a number of disorders. This section explores some of the major glands that make up the endocrine system and the hormones secreted by these glands (Table 3.2).


The pituitary gland descends from the hypothalamus at the base of the brain, and acts in close association with it. The pituitary is often referred to as the “master gland” because its messenger hormones control

104 Chapter 3 | Biopsychology

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