Thinking Sensing and Behaving

Photograph of a man cleaning and taking care of a child at the same time
The brain works best with one job at a time, but daily life calls for multitasking, causing a “bottle neck” in the brain.
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Plasticity itself is not unique to humans, but the degree to which our brains are able to adapt is.
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Considered the most common mental illnesses, anxiety disorders affect an estimated 18 percent of the adult population in a given year, or 40 million Americans.
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Genes and the environment converge powerfully during early sensitive windows of brain development to form the neural circuits underlying behavior. Although most neuronal cell death occurs in the embryo, the paring down of connections occurs in large part during critical periods in early postnatal life.
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What do standing frustrated in a supermarket checkout line or sitting in a traffic jam have in common with fleeing predators, as was done in the early days of human beings?
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Once the neurons reach their final location, they must make the proper connections so that a particular function, such as vision or hearing, can emerge.
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A stressful situation activates three major communication systems in the brain, all of which regulate bodily functions.
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The ability to react quickly in response to threatening events has been with us since the time of our earliest ancestors.
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From the stands at sports events, we marvel at the actions of athletes. But in fact, each of us in our daily activities performs a host of complex, skilled movements that are just as remarkable.
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Networks of spinal neurons also participate in controlling the alternating action of the legs during normal walking, maintaining posture, and, to a large degree, in all movements.
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Perhaps the simplest and most fundamental movements are reflexes. These are relatively fixed, automatic muscle responses to particular stimuli, such as the slight extension of the leg when a physician taps the knee with a small rubber hammer.
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Although legal, alcohol is addictive. Together, alcohol abuse and alcohol addiction — sometimes referred to as alcoholism or alcohol dependence — are among the nation's major health problems.
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Despite definitive proof that smoking can be fatal, nicotine still is one of the most widely abused substances. In fact, tobacco kills more than 440,000 U.S. citizens each year — more than alcohol, cocaine, heroin, homicide, suicide, car accidents, and HIV combined.
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