•Itperches on top ofyour spine, within your
skull-3 pounds of pink, soft, strangelywrinkled tissue the size of a grapefruit.•In weight,it makes up less than 2% of
your body,yet it works so hard that it con-sumes about 20% of the oxygen that thebody uses when at rest.•Nature has devised ways to protect it. Inaddition to being encased in the thick boneof your skull, it is surrounded by a fluidthat helps cushion it. Andwhen your bodyis deprived of food, it is thefirst to get itsshare of whatever nutrients are coursingthrough the blood."It" is the human brain, which has beendescribed as "the most marvelous structure inthe universe" (Miller, 1990). (See Figure 2.1.)All the human capabilities discussed in thistextbook-gathering information, learningandremembering, acting intelligently, mov-ing about, developing skills, feeling emotions, coping with stress, relating to oth-ers-as well as surviving from moment to moment are managed within the brain.Think ofall the things you did in the last 24hours. Whatever you did-sleep, dream,wake up, dress,eat, study, get angry, make love-your brain was responsible.
Wefunction through a network of brain and body systems that is surely one of
the great wonders ofnature. Knowledge ofhow these systems work and exactlywhatthey accomplish is essential to an understanding of the entire field of psychology.
F IG U R E
A side view of
th e h u m a n b ra in.
T h e
b ra in
perches on top of vour spine,beneath vour skull-3 poundsof pinkish, soft, strangelvw rinkled tissue the size of a 9 rapefru it.
H OW T H E B R A IN G O V E R N S B E H A V IO R
Toappreciate the remarkable powers of the brain,it helpsto understand how lower organisms manage to function.Aone-celled animal such as a paramecium doesn't need a ner-vous system.Its entire single-celled "body" is sensitive toheat and light and capable of initiating the movements nec-essary for life. Larger and more complicated animals, how-
ever, must have some kind of nervous system to coordinatetheir internal functions and movements.This system takes theform of specialized neural fibers that extend throughout the body and are capableof transmitting information back and forth.
F O C U S Q U E S T IO N S
•H ow do neurons w ork and w hat do they do?•W hat constitutes the central nervous system ?•W hy do psychologists and other scientists placeso m uch em phasis on understanding the functionsof the brain's outer surface?