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narcissistic personality disorder: Extremely selfish and self-centred, people with a narcissistic personality have a grandiose view of their uniqueness, achievements, and talents and an insatiable craving for admiration and approval from others. They are exploitative to achieve their own goals and expect much more from others than they themselves are willing to give.


narcosynthesis: A psychiatric procedure originating during World War II in which a drug was employed to help stressed soldiers recall the battle traumas underlying their disorders.


narcotics: Addictive sedative drugs, for example, morphine and heroin, that in moderate doses relieve pain and induce sleep.


negative reinforcement: The strengthening of a tendency to exhibit desired behaviour by rewarding responses in that situation with the removal of an aversive stimulus.


negative symptoms: Behavioural deficits in schizophrenia, such as flat affect and apathy.


negative triad: In Beck’s theory of depression, a person’s baleful views of the self, the world, and the future; the triad is in a reciprocal causal relationship with pessimistic assumptions (schemata) and cognitive biases such as selective abstraction.


neo-Freudian: A person who has contributed to the modification and extension of Freudian theory.


neologism: A word made up by the speaker that is usually meaningless to a listener.


nerve impulse: A change in the electric potential of a neuron; a wave of depolarization spreads along the neuron and causes the release of neurotransmitter.


neurofibrillary tangles: Abnormal protein filaments present in the cell bodies of brain cells in patients with Alzheimer’s disease.


neurologist: A physician who studies the nervous system, especially its structure, functions, and abnormalities.


neuron: A single nerve cell.


neuropsychological tests: Psychological tests, such as the Luria–Nebraska, that can detect impairment in different parts of the brain.


neuropsychologist: A psychologist concerned with the relationships among cognition, affect, and behaviour on the one hand, and brain function on the other.


neuroses: Old term for a large group of non-psychotic disorders characterized by unrealistic anxiety and other associated problems, for example, phobic avoidances, obsessions, and compulsions. See anxiety disorders.


neurosyphilis (general paresis): Infection of the central nervous system by the spirochete Treponema pallidum, which destroys brain tissue; marked by eye disturbances, tremors, and disordered speech as well as severe intellectual deterioration and psychotic symptoms.


neurotic anxiety: In psychoanalytic theory, a fear of the consequences of expressing previously punished and repressed id impulses; more generally, unrealistic fear.


neurotransmitter: A chemical substance important in transferring a nerve impulse from one neuron to another; for example, serotonin and norepinephrine.


nicotine: The principal alkaloid of tobacco (an addicting agent).


Niemann-Pick disease: An inherited disorder of lipid (fat) metabolism that produces mental retardation and paralysis and brings early death.


nitrous oxide: A gas that, when inhaled, produces euphoria and sometimes giddiness.


nomenclature: A system or set of names or designations used in a particular discipline, such as the DSM-IV.


nomothetic: Relating to the universal and to the formulation of general laws that explain a range of phenomena. Contrast with idiographic.


norepinephrine: A catecholamine that is a neurotransmitter of the central nervous system. Disturbances in its tracts apparently figure in depression and mania. It is also a neurotransmitter secreted at the nerve endings of the sympathetic nervous system, a hormone liberated with epinephrine in the adrenal medulla and similar to it in action, and a strong vasoconstrictor.


normal curve: As applied in psychology, the bell-shaped distribution of a measurable trait depicting most people in the middle and few at the extremes.


nosology: A systematic classification of diseases.


nucleus: In anatomy, a mass of nerve cell bodies (gray matter) within the brain or spinal cord by which descending nerve fibres connect with ascending nerve fibres.