Addiction and neural ageing
Addiction and neural ageing

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Glossary for SD805_2
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recency effect

Effect observed in investigations of short-term memory. Subjects are presented with a sequence of 15–30 unrelated words. Immediately after the last word, they are asked to recall as many words as they can in any order they wish. Performance on this task shows that the last few words are recalled extremely well – the recency effect.

See also primacy effect.

receptive field

The area of sensory surface which, when stimulated, changes the activity of a neuron in a sensory system.


A term with two very different meanings in neurobiology:

  1. A sensory neuron or that part of one which is responsible for sensing information in the environment (e.g. light receptors in the eye).
  2. Protein molecule embedded within a cell membrane which when occupied by a particular hormone, drug, or neurotransmitter initiates a change in cell function.


A return to drug taking after a period of abstinence.

rectangularisation of mortality

Term referring to the observation that a plot of percentage survival against age for populations of modern Western societies is roughly rectangular in shape. This indicates that the average lifespan is approaching the maximum lifespan. The maximum lifespan is presumed to remain fairly constant.


(chemical) Loss of oxygen, gain of hydrogen or gain of electrons in a chemical reaction.


An approach to describing or analysing complex phenomena from within a single, all-embracing level of explanation; all other apparent levels of explanation are reinterpreted as (‘reduced’ to) subsidiary manifestations of the fundamental explanatory level, or discarded as irrelevant.


An automatic, predictable and relatively stereotyped reaction to a particular stimulus.

reflex arc

Simple linkage between stimulus and response, in which presenting a stimulus triggers a response.

refractory period

A short time period which must elapse following an action potential before another action potential can be stimulated at the same location.

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