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  • Acetylcholine A neurotransmitter that plays an important role in attention, learning, and memory.
  • Amygdala Part of the limbic system always alert to threats.
  • Axon The long branch of a nerve cell that transmits information to other cells.
  • Conditioning A learned response to a stimulus that always precedes an event, as if the stimulus were the event itself.
  • Cortex The wrinkled layers of cells covering the surface of the brain, sometimes called gray matter.
  • Declarative Memory The conscious recollection of facts and events; also called explicit memory.
  • Dendrite A branch of a nerve cell that receives information from other cells.
  • Dopamine A “pleasure” neurotransmitter that plays a central role in the brain’s internal reward system.
  • Episodic Memory Conscious memory for what happened, where. Sometimes called “autobiographical memory.”
  • Frontal Lobes The most recently evolved section of the brain, used for conscious planning, problem solving, and control of emotion.
  • Glutamate A neurotransmitter that plays a central role in creating learning and memory pathways between brain cells.
  • Gray matter See cortex.
  • Habituation An unconscious form of learning by which our brain learns to ignore a repeatedly-applied stimulus once it has been categorized as non-threatening.
  • Hippocampus A part of the limbic system crucial for creating and accessing long-term memories.
  • Limbic System A collection of structures that play important roles in emotion, memory, and attention.
  • Long-term Potentiation The process underlying learning and memory by which one brain cell becomes sensitive to stimulation from a neighbor cell.
  • Myelin The insulation surrounding a brain cell’s axon.
  • Neurogenesis The production of new brain cells.
  • Neuron A nerve cell, or cell in the nervous system (which includes the brain). Often used interchangeably with brain cell.
  • Neurotransmitter A chemical messenger that brain cells use to communicate with one another.
  • Nondeclarative Memory Unconscious forms of memory and learning that influence behavior without our being aware of it. Also called implicit memory.
  • Priming A form of subliminal memory in which one piece of information can cue recall of another.
  • Procedural Memory Automatic memory for skills and habits, such as how to ride a bike or sign one’s name; also “muscle memory.”
  • Serotonin A “feel-good” neurotransmitter linked to mood, raised by antidepressants such as Prozac.
  • Subliminal Below the level of consciousness
  • Synapse The tiny gap between brain cells across which neurotransmitter chemicals convey messages.
  • White Matter The part of the brain beneath the cortex that consists mostly of brain cell axons sheathed in myelin.
  • Working Memory A short-term memory system for holding information “online” and manipulating it to solve problems.

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©2009 Allen D. Bragdon Publishers