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Nervous System Disorders

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Ever had a headache that just won't go away?

We all get headaches. Headaches are a relatively minor problem associated with the nervous system. But what about more serious issues of the nervous system? As you can probably imagine, these can be extremely serious.

Disorders of the Nervous System

There are several different types of problems that can affect the nervous system.

  • Vascular disorders involve problems with blood flow. For example, a stroke occurs when a blood clot blocks blood flow to part of the brain. Brain cells die quickly if their oxygen supply is cut off. This may cause paralysis and loss of other normal functions, depending on the part of the brain that is damaged.
  • Nervous tissue may become infected by microorganisms. Meningitis , for example, is caused by a viral or bacterial infection of the tissues covering the brain. This may cause the brain to swell and lead to brain damage and death.
  • Brain or spinal cord injuries may cause paralysis and other disabilities. Injuries to peripheral nerves can cause localized pain or numbness.
  • Abnormal brain functions can occur for a variety of reasons. Examples include headaches, such as migraine headaches, and epilepsy, in which seizures occur.
  • Nervous tissue may degenerate, or break down. Alzheimer’s disease is an example of this type of disorder, as is Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis , or ALS. ALS is also known as Lou Gehrig's disease. It leads to a gradual loss of higher brain functions. For a detailed video discussion of Alzheimer's disease see the visualMD.com at http://www.thevisualmd.com/health_centers/neurological_health/what_is_alzheimer_s/what_is_alzheimer_s_disease_video .

Alzheimer's Disease: Is the Cure in the Genes?

By 2050, as the U.S. population ages, 15 million Americans will suffer from Alzheimer's disease — triple today's number. But genetic studies may provide information leading to a cure. See http://www.kqed.org/quest/television/alzheimers-is-the-cure-in-the-genes for more information.

In April 2011, an international analysis of the genes of more than 50,000 people led to the discovery of five new genes that make Alzheimer's disease more likely in the elderly and provide clues about what might start the Alzheimer's disease process and fuel its progress in a person’s brain. See http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/04/health/04alzheimer.html for additional information.

Summary

  • Disorders of the nervous system include blood flow problems such as stroke, infections such as meningitis, brain injuries, and degeneration of nervous tissue, as in Alzheimer’s disease.

Explore More

Use this resource to answer the questions that follow.

  1. Describe the following nervous system disorders:
    1. Alzheimer's Disease
    2. Huntington's Disease
    3. Multiple Sclerosis
    4. Parkinson's Disease
    5. Tourette's Syndrome

Review

  1. Identify three nervous system disorders.
  2. Multiple sclerosis is a disease in which the myelin sheaths of neurons in the central nervous system break down. What symptoms might this cause? Why?

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