Here are some definitions of terms that you encountered during week 1, or will encounter during the next weeks.
Adrenal glands Two endocrine glands placed above the kidneys. They secrete several hormones (including adrenaline and cortisol), and regulate a large number of body homeostatic functions, including metabolism, mineral balance, blood volume. Adrenaline plays also a major role in the response to stresses and immediate dangers.
Axon A thin, cable-like projection that starts from the cellular body of the neuron and carries information to its targets. The information travels along the axon as an electrical signal, until it reaches the synapse and then the final target.
Blood-brain barrier A border that separates the brain from the blood circulation
Brain area Regions of the brain that are homogeneous in nature or function. The most used subdivision of the brain in areas is the one defined by Korbinian Broadmann, and it is based on the cellular characteristics and organization. Many Broadmann areas have been put in correlation with specific mental tasks.
Cognition The ability to gain knowledge, understanding or skills through experience, sensory stimulus and internal thought processes. As a term, it is used mostly by cognitive scientists and by psychology that studies the thought processes from an information-centered point of view.
Epithelium One of the basic kinds of tissues found in the human body (and in animals). The epithelium lines the external surfaces of organs and blood vessels, or the internal surface of cavities. The particular architecture of the epithelium and brain cells is responsible for the characteristics of the blood-brain barrier
Fatty acids Molecules with acidic properties and containing a chain made of hydrogen and carbon atoms. Fatty acids are mostly found in organisms as building blocks composing the cell membranes or as triglycerides
Grey matter The areas of the brain where the bodies of the neurons are densely packed together. The grey matter forms an external layer in the brain (called cortex), but can also be found in nuclei that are surrounded by white matter
Hypothalamus A small brain area responsible for the regulation of many homeostatic functions. It is part of the limbic circuit, a network of brain areas that are involved in emotions, learning, memory, and it is strictly connected to our endocrine system and with the hypothalamus
Nerve The name given to a bundle of axons outside the central nervous system
Neuroimaging The group of techniques that can be used to ‘see’ the structure and the activity brain. It includes tools such as Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and Positron Emitting Tomography (PET)
Neuron The basic cell composing the nervous system. It has the characteristic of being able to receive, process and transmit information to other neurons, glands or organs
Pituitary gland A small endocrine gland, placed at the base of the brain. It is strictly connected to the hypothalamus, and its action regulates many aspects of the metabolism and homeostasis: e blood pressure, the functions of sex organs, energy management, some aspects of pregnancy and breastfeeding, etc..
Thyroid A butterfly-shaped gland placed in our throat. It regulates metabolism and protein synthesis through its hormones: T3 and T4. The activity of the thyroid is regulated by the hypothalamic-pituitary-thyroid axis, controlling the level of TSH (thyroid-stimulating hormone)
White matter Areas of the brain composed of bundles of axons and of the myelin ‘insulation’ that surrounds them