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Stimulation is the action of various agents (stimuli) on muscles, nerves, or a sensory end organ, by which activity is evoked; especially, the nervous impulse produced by various agents on nerves, or a sensory end organ, by which the part connected with the nerve is thrown into a state of activity.
The word is also often used metaphorically. For example, an interesting or fun activity can be described as "stimulating", regardless of its physical effects on nerves.
It is also used in simulation technology to describe a synthetically-produced signal that triggers (stimulates) real equipment, see below.
Stimulation in general refers to how organisms perceive incoming stimuli. As such it is part of the stimulus-response mechanism. Simple organisms broadly react in three ways to stimulation: too little stimulation causes them to stagnate, too much to die from stress or inability to adapt, and a medium amount causes them to adapt and grow as they overcome it. Similar categories or effects are noted with psychological stress with people. Thus, stimulation may be described as how external events provoke a response by an individual in the attempt to cope.
Use in Simulators and Simulation Technology
Stimulation describes a type of simulation whereby artificially-generated signals are fed to real equipment or software in order to Stimulate it to produce the result required for training, maintenance or for R&D. The real equipment can be radar, sonics, instruments, software and so on. In some cases the Stimulation equipment can be carried in the real platform or carriage vehicle (that is the Ship, AFV or Aircraft) and be used for so-called "embedded training" during its operation, by the generation of simulated scenarios which can be dealt with in a realistic manner by use of the normal controls and displays. In the overall definition of simulation, the alternative method is called "emulation" which is the simulation of equipment by entirely artificial means by physical and software modelling.
Psychologically, it is possible to become habituated to a degree of stimulation, and then find it uncomfortable to have significantly more or less. Thus one can become used to an intense life, or television, and suffer withdrawal when they are removed, from lack of stimulation, and it is possible to also be unhappy and stressed due to additional abnormal stimulation.
It is hypothesized and commonly believed by some that psychological habituation to a high level of stimulation ("over-stimulation") can lead to psychological problems. For example, some food additives can result in children becoming prone to over-stimulation, and ADHD is, theoretically, a condition in which over-stimulation is a part. It is also hypothesized that long term over-stimulation can result eventually in a phenomenon called "adrenal exhaustion" over time, but this is neither medically accepted nor proven at this time.