Neurology: Most Popular Articles
How neurologists approach the common problem of numbness and tingling.
Dizziness is a common symptom which sometimes indicates a serious problem. How can you tell when your dizziness is serious?
The fingers and thumb can tingle for a variety of reasons, but to understand those reasons, it's important to understand the neuroanatomy of the hand.
Many people are alarmed to hear that their MRI shows several small spots, which they are told is associated with aging. What causes these spots and what do they mean? Are they dangerous? Learn more here.
Vertigo is an illusionary sense of movement. When vertigo comes on suddenly, it can be uncomfortable, and sometimes dangerous. Learn more about causes of vertigo here.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)is a tool frequently used by neurologists to take images of the brain and spinal cord. How can you best learn about how to interpret these images?
All of us have some degree of tremor. So how do we know when a tremor means something more? Learn what you should pay attention to in order to help your neurologist determine the cause of your tremor.
Neurology is the medical specialty that focuses on the brain, spinal cord, nerves and muscles. Neurologists deal with a large number of different problems. Do you need a neurologist?
Stroke is one of the most serious neurological illnesses, but many people never recognize what's happening in time to treat the problem. Learn how to tell if you're having a stroke.
When they need to get a picture of the brain, why do doctors sometimes order a CT scan, and other times order an MRI? Which is best?
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CT scans are frequently ordered by neurologists and other doctors, especially in emergency situations. What do the images show, and how are they interpreted?
The radial nerve is one of three nerves that supplies the hand, as well as several parts of the arm. Injury can lead to distinctive patterns of numbness and weakness. Learn more here.
The cranial nerves relay important information to and from the brain without going through the spine. Diseases of the cranial nerve cause very distinctive symptoms.
A low vitamin B12 level can cause changes in thinking, sensation, and even the ability to walk. Despite being frequently found in most diets, a low B12 level is not uncommon. Learn why here.
There is more to a loss of consciousness than simply not being awake. States such as coma, persistent vegetative state, and normal sleep all involve a loss of consciousness, and all have different degrees of severity. Even in cases as severe as persistent vegetative state, there are rare cases of people awakening. Brain death is different. As the term suggests, in brain death there is no hope of recovery. Learn more here.
Some common questions about lumbar punctures, or spinal taps, are addressed.
Psychosomatic disorders are frequently misunderstood. The term is used when a psychiatric problem such as depression, anxiety or other disturbance manifests itself as seemingly unrelated physical symptoms.
An allegory to describe what happens in the brain during a seizure.
Electromyography (EMG) and nerve conduction studies (NCSs) are tools that help neurologists locate and find the cause of diseases of muscle and peripheral nerves.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is part of a larger family of motor neuron diseases in which the nerves responsible for movement degenerate, leading to weakness and other problems. Learn more about these diseases here.
What are the potentially life-threatening causes of dizziness?
Migraine can mimic almost any neurological problem, and among those is dizziness. People with migraine often complain of nausea and a sense of spinning. Learn more here.
One of the most common problems in neurology is when a spinal nerve root is compressed, leading to pain, numbness, and sometimes weakness. To understand the problem, we first need to understand the anatomy of the spine.
Parasitic infections can invade practically any part of the body imagineable. Those that infect the nervous system are potentially the most damaging, and the most disturbing.
Chronic subjective dizziness is a common and treatable cause of disequilibrium. Treatments include vestibular therapy, medication and cognitive behavioral therapy.
Many neurological disorders cause the blood's sodium concentration to drop. In general, this is not a good thing. Hyponatremia can cause brain swelling, seizures, and coma. So how do doctors treat this problem?
If you're suffering from acute attacks of dizziness and the most common problems have been ruled out, there are more places to look.
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The autonomic nervous system controls vital functions like blood pressure, heart rate, breathing, sweating, and other things beyond our direct conscious control.
The most common cause of inflammation in the tissues that surround the brain is not a bacterial infection, but a virus.
To be infected by a spore, mold or fungus has a uniquely nasty feeling about it. This is particularly the case when the fungus invades something as prized and private as our brains. Fungal infections of the central nervous system are not particularly common, but when such infections occur, the results can be devastating.
The term coma has terrifying connotations to most people. In reality, many things can cause coma, and the probability of recovery can range from practically certain to almost no chance of meaningful recovery. It's not enough to know whether someone is in a coma. You need to know why and how bad the coma is. Start learning more here.
Chronic subjective dizziness describes a sense of imbalance that persists months after an attack of sudden vertigo.
What are reflexes, and why do neurologists and other doctors keep whacking our knees with that hammer?
Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease is the most common form of prion disease. Prion diseases are caused by a mutated protein that causes more proteins to change shape, transforming them into more prions. The result is a cascade of deformed proteins that kills brain cells and leads to rapidly progressive dementia.
When evaluating someone who has a tremor, neurologists attempt to put the tremor into one of several categories. Each category is associated with different disease types, and therefore also associated with different types of treatments. Everyone has some kind of tremor. What sort of tremor do you have?
The spinal cord, like any other part of the nervous system, can become infected. Paralysis, numbness, and worse can result.
Bell's palsy involves the sudden weakness of half the face. It can mimic more serious diseases like stroke, but is itself not dangerous. Learn more here.
For many, dizziness doesn't come in spurts, but instead is a constant: something that needs to be managed every minute of every day. Unfortunately, clear causes for this dizziness are the exception rather than the rule. Someone with chronic dizziness and no apparent cause may be diagnosed with chronic subjective dizziness. First, though, other potential causes should be ruled out.
It’s no secret that medications used by doctors to treat diseases and alleviate discomfort can, in fact, have side effects that cause a new set of problems. Dizziness is one of the most common side effects associated with medications.
Myasthenia gravis used to be uniformly disabling and usually fatal, but can now usually be well controlled with medical therapy.
When someone is weak, neurologists try to figure out exactly where the source of weakness lies. All other steps in determining the cause of weakness follow this crucial step.
Two researchers have constructed a model of the fictional zombie brain, using the undead to liven up interest in neuroscience.
Meningiomas are tumors growing form the tissues that surround the brain. While usually slow growing and easily treated, sometimes meningiomas can be serious.
Electromyography (EMG) and nerve conduction studies (NCSs) are helpful tools neurologists use to investigate diseases of the peripheral nervous system and muscles. Learn more about how these tests are done here.
Transient global amnesia is a frightening, but temporary, occurrence during which someone can't form new memories.
Postconcussive syndrome is a controversial medical diagnosis, but few would dispute that many people suffer from similar symptoms following a head injury. These can include headache, dizziness, mood changes, and sleep problems.
Most people associate the medical use of ultrasound as being a method for checking on an unborn fetus during pregnancy, but ultrasound has many uses in neurology as well. Learn more about these techniques here.
Many people worry that their tremor may be due to Parkinson's disease, but there's a less serious cause of tremor that's more common. Essential tremor isn't life-threatening, but the symptoms can interfere with your quality of life. Start learning more about essential tremor here.
Understanding the peripheral nervous system is critical to understanding many causes of numbness, tingling, and weakness.
Love was once thought to be beyond our understanding, or at least relegated to the realm of philosophers and poets.
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Carotid artery stenosis is a narrowing of the arteries in the neck that deliver blood to most of the brain. Stenosis can lead to stroke, but what is the best way to deal with it? Learn more here.
Bell's palsy involves sudden loss of facial nerve function. This leads to face weakness on one side. Fortunately, most people recover well from Bell's palsy, but there are some ways to heal more and faster, as well as preventing further problems.
An introduction to functional connectivity and the default mode network.
When people discuss spinal cerebellar ataxia (SCA), they are actually referring to a group of neurodegenerative disorders that cause progressive clumsiness. Learn more about these inherited disorders here.
Balint's syndrome results from damage to the parietal lobes, and restricts someone's ability to direct their eyes appropriately in space. The result is something that resembles an eye problem, but really results from damage to the brain.
Myasthenia gravis causes weakness that can become life threatening, but is also a well understood disorder with available treatments. Learn more here.
Guillain-Barre is an autoimmune disorder of the peripheral nervous system that causes weakness, numbness, and other symptoms. Guillain-Barre can be a life-threatening syndrome that leads to total paralysis, including the muscles required to breathe.
Myasthenia gravis can cause life threatening weakness, but responds well to treatment. In order to treat the disease, though, first the diagnosis must be confirmed. Here are some techniques used by neurologists to investigate myasthenia gravis.
The term traumatic brain injury covers a wide spectrum of severity, from minor concussions to severe injuries requiring neurosurgery. Treatment of traumatic brain injury must be tailored to the individual. Learn more here.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a neurologically devastating disease in which patients slowly lose their ability to move. Learn more about the signs, symptoms, and therapies for ALS here.
For almost every neurological problem there is, but especially headache, many people worry that the cause could be a tumor in the brain. What symptoms most suggest that you have a brain tumor?
An explanation of CTE, caused by head injuries, diagnosed only after death, and best known for affecting athletes such as boxers and football players.
Guillain-Barré is a potentially dangerous syndrome with weakness that spreads up the body. Learn more about how doctors can tell if you have this disorder.
Ataxia is the medical term for clumsiness. Lack of coordination can be caused by many things, but is usually associated with the cerebellum.
The amygdala is a small part of the brain with a big role in our lives. The two amygdalae (for almond after its shape and size) sit in the temporal lobes, where they play a critical part in emotional processing. So critical, in fact, that the amygdala has been referred to as the epicenter of emotion.
About 15 percent of stroke is hemorrhagic, meaning that a ruptured artery leads to bleeding in the brain. Although hemorrhagic stroke is more rare than ischemic stroke, it is also more deadly, with only about half of victims surviving. Learn more about intracerebral hemorrhage here.
When pressure gets too high around your brain, very bad things can happen. Fortunately, there are a number of different ways neurologists can control that pressure, usually in a neuro-ICU.
While surgery is important for treating brain tumors, it is not always sufficient or possible. Fortunately, other options are available.
Cerebral aneurysms sometimes rupture, leading to dangerous bleeding known as a subarachnoid hemorrhage. Sometimes invasive surgical interventions are required to prevent this kind of bleeding. Learn more here.
The term consciousness is one of those things that seems obvious until you actually try to define it. Maybe like so many other things in life, consciousness is best understood when it is lost. By studying various causes of diminished consciousness, neurologists can determine what structures and chemicals of the brain are important in maintaining alertness and awareness of your surroundings.
Glioblastoma, also known as glioblastoma multiforme, GBM, or a grade 4 astrocytoma, is one of the most common and aggressive types of brain tumors.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a terribly debilitating disease. As people with ALS get weaker, many serious, life-threatening changes occur that need to be addressed by a team of medical professionals. In addition, there are changes that are not life-threatening, but nevertheless have an impact on the day-to-day lives of those with ALS. Addressing these components of ALS can help improve the quality of life of those who suffer from this devastating neurological illness.
Neurologists have good reason to worry when pressure surrounding the brain gets too high. Headaches, vision changes, and eventually coma and death can result. How can we tell when the pressure is building? And what can we do about it?
Functional MRI is a technique that depicts brain activity by showing brightly lit areas in the brain. These images are often used in research that is frequently seen on television and newspapers. This technique is also becoming increasingly popular in hospital settings. But how reliable are these images, and how exactly are they made? Learn more here.
Often, meningiomas only require periodic evaluation. Sometimes, however, treatment is called for.
Conversion disorders occur when a psychiatric stress makes itself known by acting out like a neurological illness. Psychogenic nonepileptic seizures are an example. Although there is no abnormal electrical activity in the brain as is present in epilepsy, these patients act and feel like they are having epileptic seizures. Rather than treating with anticonvulsive medications, these patients improve either on their own once the diagnosis is made, or with the help of a psychiatrist.
Brain tumors usually don’t result from problems with nerve cells. Glial cells, which normally surround and support nerve cells, are the usual suspects.
The term synesthesia comes from the Greek for syn (together) and aesthesia (sensation). The term describes an automatic and involuntary blending of senses. Acoustic information may become olfactory, for example, so that music has a certain smell. While almost any type of sensory blending is possible, some forms are more commonly reported than others.
The frontal lobes are responsible for many of the things that make us who we are-- our ability to plan, control basic emotions, and even shape our personality.
While essential tremor isn't as serious as Parkinson's disease, the shaking can be annoying, embarrassing, and even debilitating. Learn about different ways to manage the symptoms of essential tremor.
Guillain-Barre can be a serious, even life-threatening disease that can lead to total paralysis. However, with medical therapies, most people not only survive, but have impressive recoveries of their ability to move as they previously did.
There are many reasons to feel dizzy, and anxiety is one of the most common. Panic attack involves sudden and recurrent episodes of at least four of the
Traumatic spinal cord injury is a tragic event that can produce permanent disability often at a young age. Learn more about how doctors diagnose and treat traumatic spinal cord injury.
The sense of smell is important but underappreciated by most of us. Those who lose this sense can suffer from depression and more.
The ability to remember is one of the most distinctive things about the brain. How does it do it?
If you've been recently diagnosed with ALS, you've probably got some questions and concerns regarding your future. While ALS has no cure, that doesn't mean you can't get help. There are lots of resources available to help you live the best life possible in spite of your disease. Knowing about these resources could not only make a difference in your quality of life, but even how long you are able to live.
Dystonia is when both agonist and antagonist muscles of a body part unintentionally contract, resulting in uncomfortable posturing of that body part. Dystonia can be embarrassing and disabling. Learn more about dystonia here.
Between 2007 and 2012, eight new anticonvulsant medications became available in Europe or the United States, offering new options to those with poorly controlled seizures. No medication is without some risks, and it's important to learn about the good and the bad of any new pharmaceutical agent.
Dystonia involves involuntary muscle contractions that can be uncomfortable, disabling, and embarrassing. Sometimes, dystonia can be hard to treat, but there are a variety of different options available. Learn more here.
Watching their newborn baby have a seizure is a terrifying experience for parents, but not all seizures portend a serious outcome for the child. Here are some of the less severe forms of infant epilepsy.
Increasing evidence suggests that doctors have been looking in the wrong spot for the source of the pain. Rather than looking at the back, for example, it may be more helpful to look at the brain.
Amoeba are one-celled organisms that usually harmlessly coexist with humans. Occasionally, though, these small creatures can cause serious problems to the central nervous system.
Parasitic tapeworm larvae in the brain.
Delirium is a common but concerning state of confusion in sick hospital patients. Family members and friends can be helpful in reducing the symptoms of delirium.
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Recent years have seen the advance of new diagnostic techniques that can potentially help doctors with the diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease. But are these tests necessary? When are they really helpful?
The nerve communicates with muscle at the aptly-named neuromuscular junction, where the neurotransmitter acetylcholine travels a small distance from nerve to muscle to signal the muscle to contract. When something goes wrong with the neuromuscular junction, the result is weakness.
Hashimoto’s encephalopathy is an uncommon and treatable disorder associated with inflammation of the thyroid gland (thyroiditis). The encephalopathy is thought to be most characterized by confusion, altered consciousness, and often seizures, but has been suggested to cause a wide range of symptoms.
Humans are social creatures. We depend on each other to survive, but also to learn, play, and accomplish. The human brain is built for this kind of interaction, and helps define who we are in society. Why do we act the way we do around other people?
The classical combination of hyperphagia, hyperorality, hypersexuality, and docility result from lesions of bilateral temporal lobes, including the amygdala, and was first described in the 1930s. While not common, Klüver-Bucy syndrome taught us a lot about how the brain works.
Lack of vitamin B12 isn't the only thing that can cause such a myelopathy. Deficiencies of copper, folate, or vitamin E can also cause problems with the spinal cord.
Most of us think of seizures as causing convulsive movements, but some seizures instead mimic changes of consciousness like delirium and even coma. How can we know when someone is seizing?
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The frontal lobotomy was an early example of psychosurgery, a controversial surgical procedure intended to alter someone's mood, thoughts or behavior.
An introduction to Traumatic Brain Injury, an increasingly notorious neurological problem that can affect anyone of any age.
The field of research in muscular dystrophy has made great strides forward, and a surge in clinical trials is resulting. The result is a new opportunity for hope in people with these debilitating disorders.
There are many types of childhood epilepsy. Some affect children over the age of two, and others only impact infants. Some cause the whole body to shake (generalized seizures), and others only initially shake part of the body (partial seizures). Some are associated with learning problems and developmental disability, though many are not. Here we investigate partial epilepsy syndromes of childhood without associated developmental or learning problems.
Problems with the autonomic nervous system can lead to several complaints including dizziness, cold insensitivity, nausea and more. There are many different tests that explore dysautonomia.
When the carotid arteries are narrowed, it increases the risk of stroke. Carotid endarterectomy can widen the arteries again, reducing stroke risk.
A person’s level of consciousness is a measure of how alert and oriented they are. Consciousness is a spectrum with many shades. While the best known alteration of consciousness is the infamous coma, meaning someone is unarousable with their eyes closed, there are many other ways that a persons’ consciousness can be impaired. Some may mimic coma, whereas others appear quite different but are still very concerning to the friends and family of the afflicted patient.
Normal pressure hydrocephalus (NPH) is potentially reversible cause of dementia, but the treatment can be dangerous and the disease is difficult for doctors to diagnose. What's the best approach?
Parkinson's disease comes with unique problems that require unique solutions. Tips on dealing with common Parkinson's symptoms here.
Transverse myelitis is when the body's immune system attacks the spinal cord, resulting in inflammation that leads to rapid sensory changes and paralysis. While this disorder can be devastating, it is also often treatable.
Subarachnoid hemorrhage is one of the most severe neurological illnesses. This intracranial bleeding can occur suddenly and dramatically in people who may have seemed healthy just beforehand, killing about half of those afflicted and leaving many others with lasting neurological deficits. Learn more about this disorder here, including how to recognize the symptoms and what risk factors to avoid.
Hallucinations can be cause us to question the very nature of our reality. What causes us to see or hear what others don't?
Back pain is one of the most common reasons why people come to see a doctor. The vast majority of the time, the problem will either resolve on its own or requires little treatment. Sometimes surgery is required, but even then back pain is rarely an emergency. Other times, though, back pain can signify very serious trouble that may go even beyond the back itself.
Dopamine was the first major drug to help people with Parkinson's disease, and it remains one of the strongest medications available for Parkinson's symptoms. So why do some people recommend waiting before starting this medication?
Mitochondria are fascinating and critical parts of the cell. When something goes wrong, the nervous system is often the first to become damaged.
Proper diagnosis and treatment of normal pressure hydrocephalus (NPH) is a controversial topic in neurology.
While we don't yet have a cure for Parkinson's disease, it's not for lack of trying, and several promising approaches are now underway.
Brain tumors even haunt the minds of those who will never develop cancer. Headaches, tingling, dizziness and other very common symptoms may set off the fear that a deadly malignancy lurks underneath the everyday façade. How can doctors reassure us, or worse, be confident that a brain tumor is in fact present?
Dopamine dysregulation syndrome (DDS) is a potential complication of Parkinson disease medications that can cause addictive behavior and more.
Episodic ataxia is a rare group of genetic disorders that cause to attacks of clumsiness which may be associated with dizziness.
Like any other form of death, brain death can usually be diagnosed at the bedside by a qualified physician. Under some conditions, though, additional testing is called for. Learn more about those additional tests and when they might be needed.
Normal pressure hydrocephalus is a potentially reversible cause of dementia. It is also difficult to diagnose, and the treatment involves brain surgery, making it a controversial topic in neurology. Begin learning more here.
Recent years have seen an expansion in alternatives to warfarin for stroke prevention in patients with atrial fibrillation.
Help is needed to get better after a neurological injury. New techniques in neurorehabilitation will continue to improve how people recover from neurological illnesses.
Tics are abnormal movements or behaviors that are preceded by an irresistible urge. Despite their association with Tourette's syndrome, tics are very common in childhood, and do not usually signify something more serious.
Mirror neurons are neurons that are activated both when performing an action (including feeling a sensation or emotion), and when someone else performs that action. Much has been written about these neurons in the last few years. Does the reality live up to the hype?
The best time of treatment in patients with glioma but with limited symptoms is controversial, as well as the role of radiotherapy and chemotherapy.
Aphasia is a loss of the ability to make use of language. There are several different types of aphasia with several different causes, all of which have taught us about how the brain normally understands and talks with others.
Delusions commonly occur is psychiatric diseases such as schizophrenia or delusional disorders. They can also result from strokes, seizures, trauma to the brain, brain infections and as a side effect of some illicit and prescription drugs. In addition, delusions are common manifestations of dementia.
Prions are deformed proteins that cause normal proteins to change shape as well, transforming them into more prions. The result is a cascade of twisted proteins that lead to the death of brain cells, leading to a rapidly progressive dementia.
Many of us still have a hole between the two sides of our heart, a remnant of how blood flowed when we were in the womb. Some doctors believe this hole increases the risk of stroke. Are they right? What should be done about it?
We are our brains, and few things affect us, and therefore our brains, like music can. How do sound waves moving our eardrums lead to tapping feet or teary eyes? Why can a particular piece of music make our friend smile but leave us cold?
Carotid stenosis is a narrowing of neck arteries that increases stroke risk. The usual way of correcting stenosis is with surgery, but a less invasive option, carotid artery stenting, is available under certain conditions.
Subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH) is a frightening disorder in which blood ruptures from an artery in the brain and leaks into the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). As if that weren't enough, life-threatening complications after the bleed go on for days afterwards.
Most people have an idea of what an intensive care unit is, but may be surprised to know that there are specialized ICUs for neurological problems. What does a neuro-ICU offer that regular ICUs don't?
There's a lot of computerized brain training programs being marketed to help improve cognitive performance. Are they worth your time and money?
The autonomic nervous system controls vital functions like blood pressure, heart rate and more. So what happens when the autonomic nervous system goes wrong?
While some forms of epilepsy that affect children do not lead to serious problems down the road, others can cause developmental delay or even early death. Here are some of the epilepsy syndromes that can be the hardest on parents of newborn children.
Neurosurgery remains the mainstay of treatment for most cancers of the brain.
In addition to a physical examination, doctors may use certain tests to get to the bottom of urinary incontinence.
What were some of the most interesting neuroscience publications in 2013?
Apraxia means in inability to perform a skilled movement despite intact strength, sensation, and other cognitive faculties, with no other movement disorder present.
The effectiveness of available treatments for such progressive MS is at best uncertain. What does the future hold for progressive MS?