Acetylcholine - A neurotransmitter
found in the brain, spinal cord, neuromuscular junction
and automatic nervous system.
Acetylcholinesterase - The enzyme responsible for the breakdown
and inactivation of acetylcholine in the synaptic cleft.
Affective Disorder –
Those conditions that affect mood including depressive and
Alzheimer’s disease (AD)
– A progressive dementia caused by destruction of
the brain cells (neurones). As the disease advances it may
cause changes in personality, disturbing behaviour, loss
of physical coordination and increased dependence on a caregiver.
Amygdala - A region of the
brain, apparently concerned with mood, feeling instinct
and possibly memory for recent events. Dysfunctions of the
amygdala are apparently linked to depression, anxiety and
Anhedonia - Anhedonia derived from the Greek: an, meaning
not, and hedone, meaning pleasure. So, taken literally anhedonia
means the inability to experience pleasure but in psychiatry
it means the loss of pleasure in an activity that has previously
Anti-depressants – Drug
treatment for depression (the two main kinds are the tricyclic
antidepressants (TCAs) and the selective serotonin reuptake
inhibitors (the SSRIs)).
Anti-psychotic drugs –
(sometimes called neuroleptics or minor tranquillisers)
- Used to alleviate the symptoms of psychosis. In the 1990’s
came the launch of atypical antipsychotic drugs. They tend
to act on different chemical messengers and are less likely
to cause side effects.
Aricept (or donepezil hydrochloride),
The first drug licensed in the UK specifically to treat
the symptoms of Alzheimer's.
Atrophy - Atrophy occurs when
normal tissue or an organ wastes because the cells die.
Under nourishment, disease, injury, lack of use or ageing
may cause atrophy.
Bilateral dorsolateral prefrontal
- Area in the frontal lobe which is of particular interest
Bipolar Disorder (Manic Depression)
– A form of depression characterised by alternating
mood swings - from a very low mood (depression) to a high
mood (mania). In between the two mood states people will
feel the same as anyone else.
Brain - The brain consists
of many parts that are all interconnected and work together.
The major parts are the medulla, pons and midbrain (brain
stem); cerebellum; hypothalamus; thalamus and cerebrum.
Central Nervous System (CNS)
- The CNS consists of the brain and spinal cord, which control
the main bodily functions.
Cerebellum - Area of the brain
above the pons and medulla that is important for balance
and posture. Damage to this area leads to movement or motor
Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) –
A clear, colourless tissue fluid that covers the entire
surface of the CNS. It has several functions including protection,
buoyancy, excretion of waste products and the transportation
of hormones to other parts of the brain.
Cognitive enhancers: (acetylcholinesterase
inhibitors) - These drugs are intended to increase
the effectiveness of the brain damaged by Alzheimer's disease,
rather than to halt the degeneration of the brain that characterises
the disease. They increase the supply of one of the brain's
messenger chemicals, acetylcholine, which is a brain chemical
is involved in memory.
Cognition - High level functions
carried out by the human brain, including perception, use
of speech, memory, concentration, attention (information
processing) thinking, executive functions such as planning,
problem solving and self-monitoring.
Cognitive impairment (dysfunction)
- Changes in cognitive function (memory, concentration,
perception etc) caused by trauma or disease. Alzheimer’s
disease and schizophrenia are perhaps the most well known
conditions where cognition is impaired and the effect on
a person is clear to see.
Dementia - Dementia is a gradual
decline in mental abilities such as memory, thinking, concentrating
and problem-solving. The most common cause of dementia is
Alzheimer’s disease, but rarer forms include, Picks
disease, Parkinsonism and Lewy body disease.
Depression – A long
term lowering of mood and function. Depression is associated
with anxiety and panic disorders in many cases
Dopamine - Dopamine is a neurotransmitter
in the central nervous system. A deficiency of this chemical
is related to Parkinson's Disease, paranoia, memory and
Dorsolateral Prefrontol Cortex
- The outer layer of the brain is called the cortex. Increasingly,
working memory, a critical function that goes awry in schizophrenia,
is being linked to this brain region.
– A medical device for monitoring the electrical activity
of the brain.
Epilepsy - A neurological
condition where a brief disruption in the brains chemical
messages causes a seizure (fit).
Exelon (rivastigmine) - Available
in the UK as a treatment for the symptoms of Alzheimer’s
Grey matter – A part
of the central nervous system (CNS), grey in colour because
of the grey nuclei in the cells that make it up. It is the
coordination point between the nerves of the CNS.
Hippocampus - Part of the
brain responsible for spatial mapping and memory. Probably
also involved in mediating personality and anxiety. Important
in the study of schizophrenia
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
- A type of brain scan that creates a picture of
the brain using a computer and radio signals. The signals
are produced by the body in response to the effects of a
very strong magnet contained within the scanner.
Mini-Mental Status Examination -
A simple cognitive test that can be used to screen for memory
problems. It is short, takes only a few minutes to perform
and is commonly used by GPs and geriatricians.
“Negative” symptoms -
A group of symptoms in schizophrenia. Negative symptoms
are long-lasting - sleep problems, loss of energy and motivation,
difficulty in maintaining friendships.
Neurodegeneration - Deterioration
of nerve cells in the brain occurring over time. For example,
Alzheimer’s disease is a neurodegnerative disease.
Neuropsychology - The study
of brain/behaviour relationships and influences on the brain.
Neuropsychologist uses objective techniques (tests) to link
behaviours to their underlying biological (brain) processes.
The aim is to find out whether or not a behavioural abnormality
is caused by a biological abnormality in the brain, or an
emotional or learned response.
Neuron - A nerve cell vital
in the transmission of nerve impulses. Each cell has an
enlarged part (the cell body) from which extends the long,
thin axon for carrying impulses away. Atached to this structure
are dendrites (shorter and more numerous) that receive impulses.
Neurology - The study of
the brain, spinal chord and peripheral nerves, their disease
and the treatment of those conditions.
Neuropsychology tests - Used
to provide a review of a person's mental status, diagnose
mental disorders and monitor the effects of treatment.
Neurotransmitter - Any chemical
that transmits information from one neuron (brain cell)
to another neuron across a very small extracellular space
called a synapse. (Neuro refers to the brain cells and transmitter,
to sending and receiving information.)
Placebo - A technique or drug
that may help to relieve a condition but has no medical
or physical benefit. Placebos are often used in trials of
new drugs to distinguish between the medical and psychological
affects of taking a medication.
- These are abnormal experiences – hallucinations
Prepulse Inhibition (PPI) –
Inhibition of the startle response to a stimulus (loud noise)
caused by the presence of a prepulse (a weaker noise).
Prodromal – Derived
from the Greek word prodromos meaning the forerunner of
an event. In medicine it refers to the early signs of a
illness that precede a fully developed illness.
Psychiatry - A field of medicine
concerned with physical and chemical interactions in the
brain and how they affect mental and emotional processes.
Psychologist – Specialist
in the study of behaviour, not medically qualified.
Psychosis - Mental illness
in which people lose touch with reality and may experience
hallucinations and delusions. Schizophrenia and bipolar
disorder are two important psychoses.
Psychiatrist - A medical doctor
who deals with mental disorders including emotional and
Psychotherapy - A ‘talking
therapy’. There are several approaches in this method
of treatment of mental health, including psychoanalysis,
group therapy and behavioural therapy.
Randomised Controlled Trial (RCT)
- An RCT is the accepted way to judge the efficacy of a
drug. A drug is allocated randomly to half the trial volunteers,
while the other half receive a different treatment or a
placebo. By comparing the responses of the two groups, researchers
can see just how much difference the treatment under trial
makes. Many RCTs are also 'double-blinded’ meaning
that neither volunteer nor researcher knows who is getting
the real treatment.
Saccadic Eye Movement –
A rapid eye movement that directs our gaze to an object.
Saccades are followed by a fixed gaze when we take in visual
Schizophrenia – A severe
mental disorder for which most patients need long-term drug
therapy. Symptoms include hallucinations, delusions, apathy
and impaired social functioning.
Startle response – Defensive response to a strong
sensory stimulus, such as a loud noise.
Substantia nigra - The substantia
nigra has been described as the 'gear box' of the brain.
When this is not working properly it leads to a movement
Thalamus - One of a pair of
masses of grey matter located in each side of the forebrain.
Each is a centre for coordinating and relaying the sensory
information concerned with all the senses, (temperature,
pain, touch etc.) apart from that of smell.
Ventricles - 4 cavities within
the brain, each contains a capillary network that forms
cerebrospino fluid from blood plasma.
Voxel – A graphical
unit of information in a cross section image that represents
a volume of tissue.
White matter – nerve
tissue in the central nervous system composed of nerve fibres
sheathed in a white fatty insulating protein called myelin.
In the brain it occupies the central part of the cerebral