activate: (in biology) To turn on, as with a gene or chemical reaction.

ADHD: Short for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. This condition is characterized by an ongoing pattern of being impulsive (acting without thinking, for instance), inattentive (have trouble staying on task) or hyperactive (fidgeting excessively or seeming overly restless and talkative). Someone can have any or all of these symptoms — and often at a level that tends to get in the way of their functioning effectively.

anxious: (n. anxiety) A feeling of dread over some potential or upcoming situation, usually one over which someone feels they have little control.

attention: The phenomenon of focusing mental resources on a specific object or event.

auditory: An adjective referring to something that can be heard or that has to do with the process of hearing.

cell: (in biology) The smallest structural and functional unit of an organism. Typically too small to see with the unaided eye, it consists of a watery fluid surrounded by a membrane or wall. Depending on their size, animals are made of anywhere from thousands to trillions of cells.

cognition: (adj. cognitive) The mental processes of thought, remembering, learning information and interpreting those data that the senses send to the brain.

contagion: (adj. contagious) A disease that can be spread by direct contact with an infected individual or the germs they spread into the air, their clothes or their environment. Such diseases are referred to as contagious.

COVID-19: A name given to the disease that erupted into a massive global pandemic in 2020. It first emerged in 2019 and is caused by a new coronavirus known as SARS-CoV-2. Symptoms can include pneumonia, trouble breathing, feeling too tired to walk more than a few steps, fever, headaches, low blood-oxygen levels, blood clots and brain “fog.”

culture: (n. in social science) The sum total of typical behaviors and social practices of a related group of people (such as a tribe or nation). Their culture includes their beliefs, values and the symbols that they accept and/or use. Culture is passed on from generation to generation through learning. Scientists once thought culture to be exclusive to humans. Now they recognize some other animals show signs of culture as well, including dolphins and primates.

default mode network: A group of regions in the brain that forms a network, one which becomes active when people daydream or try to understand what motivates the actions of others. The brain regions that take part here are known as the medial prefrontal cortex, the temporoparietal junction and the posterior cingulate cortex.

depression: (in medicine) A mental illness characterized by persistent sadness and apathy. Although these feelings can be triggered by events, such as the death of a loved one or the move to a new city, that isn’t typically considered an “illness” — unless the symptoms are prolonged and harm an individual’s ability to perform normal daily tasks (such as working, sleeping or interacting with others). People suffering from depression often feel they lack the energy needed to get anything done. They may have difficulty concentrating on things or showing an interest in normal events. Many times, these feelings seem to be triggered by nothing; they can appear out of nowhere.

develop: To emerge or to make come into being, either naturally or through human intervention, such as by manufacturing. (in biology) To grow as an organism from conception through adulthood, often undergoing changes in chemistry, size, mental maturity or sometimes even shape.

disorder: (in medicine) A condition where the body does not work appropriately, leading to what might be viewed as an illness. This term can sometimes be used interchangeably with disease.

distraction: Any event or situation that draws someone’s attention away from whatever had been his or her main focus. Distractions can be external events, such as sounds or sights; or they can be internal events, such as thoughts or emotions.

dopamine: A neurotransmitter, this chemical helps transmit signals in the brain.

empathy: (adj. empathetic) The ability to recognize and share what someone else is feeling or experiencing.

epidemic: A widespread outbreak of an infectious disease that sickens many people (or other organisms) in a community at the same time. The term also may be applied to non-infectious diseases or conditions that have spread in a similar way.

fMRI: A special type of medical scanning technology for studying brain activity. It uses a strong magnetic field to monitor blood flow in the brain as an individual is performing some task (from reading or viewing pictures to thinking about various spoken words). Tracking areas of elevated blood flow can tell researchers which brain regions are especially active during those activities. (See also, MRI or magnetic resonance imaging)

focus: (in behavior) To look or concentrate intently on some particular point or thing.

function: The specific role some structure or device plays.

genre: A type or category of something. Often it’s applied to books (as in self-help genres, Westerns or romance), music (such as hip-hop or classical) or other media.

hypothesis: (v. hypothesize) A proposed explanation for a phenomenon. In science, a hypothesis is an idea that must be rigorously tested before it is accepted or rejected.

model: A simulation of a real-world event (usually using a computer) that has been developed to predict one or more likely outcomes. Or an individual that is meant to display how something would work in or look on others.

motor: (in biology and medicine) A term referring to movement.

network: A group of interconnected people or things. (v.) The act of connecting with other people who work in a given area or do similar thing (such as artists, business leaders or medical-support groups), often by going to gatherings where such people would be expected, and then chatting them up. (n. networking)

neurological: An adjective that refers to the brain, spinal cord or nerves.

neuroscientist: Someone who studies the structure or function of the brain and other parts of the nervous system.

neurotransmitter: A chemical released at the end of a neuron to carry a message to a neighboring cell. This chemical travels across the space between two cells, and then binds to molecules on a neighboring cell to transmit a message. Neurotransmitters are released from neurons, and can bind to neurons or to other types of cell, including those that make up muscles or glands.

pandemic: An outbreak of disease that affects a large proportion of the population across much or most of the world.

physical: (adj.) A term for things that exist in the real world, as opposed to in memories or the imagination. It can also refer to properties of materials that are due to their size and non-chemical interactions (such as when one block slams with force into another). (in biology and medicine) The term can refer to the body, as in a physical exam or physical activity.

psychologist: A scientist or mental-health professional who studies the mind, especially in relation to actions and behaviors. Some work with people. Others may conduct experiments with animals (usually rodents) to test how their minds respond to different stimuli and conditions.

Queensland: One of the states that makes up the northeast corner of the country of Australia.

social: (adj.) Relating to gatherings of people; a term for animals (or people) that prefer to exist in groups. (noun) A gathering of people, for instance those who belong to a club or other organization, for the purpose of enjoying each other’s company.

stroke: (in biology and medicine) A condition where blood stops flowing to part of the brain or leaks in the brain.

theory: (in science) A description of some aspect of the natural world based on extensive observations, tests and reason. A theory can also be a way of organizing a broad body of knowledge that applies in a broad range of circumstances to explain what will happen. Unlike the common definition of theory, a theory in science is not just a hunch. Ideas or conclusions that are based on a theory — and not yet on firm data or observations — are referred to as theoretical. Scientists who use mathematics and/or existing data to project what might happen in new situations are known as theorists.

therapy: (adj. therapeutic) Treatment intended to relieve or heal a disorder.

tool: An object that a person or other animal makes or obtains and then uses to carry out some purpose such as reaching food, defending itself or grooming.

transmission: Something that is conveyed or sent along. (In medicine) To spread a disease or toxic agent.

United Kingdom: Land encompassing the four “countries” of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. More than 80 percent of the United Kingdom’s inhabitants live in England. Many people — including U.K. residents — argue whether the United Kingdom is a country or instead a confederation of four separate countries. The United Nations and most foreign governments treat the United Kingdom as a single nation.

virus: Tiny infectious particles consisting of genetic material (RNA or DNA) surrounded by protein. Viruses can reproduce only by injecting their genetic material into the cells of living creatures. Although scientists frequently refer to viruses as live or dead, in fact many scientists argue that no virus is truly alive. It doesn’t eat like animals do, or make its own food the way plants do. It must hijack the cellular machinery of a living cell in order to survive.

web: (in computing) An abbreviation of World Wide Web, it’s a slang term for the internet.


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