Glossary of Terms
A | B | C | D-E | F-G | H-J | K-L | M-O | P | R-T | U-V | W-Z
alzheimers disease: The most common form of dementia
in older persons that affects many areas of cognitive function. Specific pathological
findings have been identified when the brain has been studied under the microscope,
although no cure for the disorder has been found.
amyotrophic lateral sclerosis: (ALS, motor neuron disease,
Lou Gehrigs disease). A degenerative disorder affecting the motor neuron cells
and the motor tracts in the brain and spinal cord.
angiogram: An invasive diagnostic test that uses
a special dye injected into the arteries by a catheter to visualize the blood
aphasia: An aquired abnormality in the production
or comprehension of language.
arteries: The blood vessels that carry the oxygenated
blood to the organs.
atherosclerosis: Thickening of the arterial wall of
blood vessels due to deposition of lipids (fats) and blood clots.
atony: A lack of muscle tone, usually leading to temporary
atrial fibrillation: An abnormal rhythm of the heart
that can result in an increased risk of stroke due to the formation of emboli
(blood clots) in the heart.
atrophy: Shrinkage in size of a particular structure,
such as muscle groups, or of the brain.
aura: Symptoms that occur prior to a particular neurological
problem (such as seizure or migraine) that serve as a warning that the abnormal
spell may follow. Includes disturbances in vision, smell or perception.
autoimmune: An abnormal response of the immune system,
causing antibodies and immune mediated cells to attack parts of the body. This
mechanism may explain many diseases.
axon: The inner core of peripheral nerves.
[ Back to Top ]
BAER (brainstem auditory evoked response): Measures function of Central Nervous System, including pathway from brainstem.
basal ganglia: A series of structures
located deep in the brain responsible for motor movements.
benign: Usually used in the context of referring
to tumors that are not cancerous.
blepharospasm: The involuntary closure of the eyes
bradykinesia: The slowing of motor movements due
to dysfunction of the basal ganglia and related structures.
cataplexy: A symptom characterized
by the sudden loss of postural tone, often resulting in the individual falling
to the floor. Cataplexy is often part of the narcolepsy complex.
CAT Scan (computerized axial tomography): A specialized
X-ray examination that is often used to visualize the brain and spinal structures.
cerebral aneurysm: A defect that results in weakness
in the wall of a blood vessel that can lead to bleeding in the brain.
cerebrovascular disease: Disorders that affect the
blood vessels that supply the brain that may result in a stroke.
central nervous system: Refers to the brain and the
cerebrospinal fluid: The fluid that surrounds the
brain and the spinal cord.
clonus: Brisk increase in tone with involuntary movements
that result in dysfunction of the corticospinal tracts.
cluster headache: A syndrome that is more common
in males resulting in one sided severe pain around the eye which usually occurs
at night and is associated with nasal stuffiness, and tearing of the eye.
coma: The state of unconsciousness in which patients
lie unresponsive with the eyes closed.
corticospinal tract: The nervous system structures
that begin in the brain and travel to the motor neuron cell to innervate the
[ Back to Top ]
deep tendon reflexes: The deep muscle
stretch reflexes that are obtained by tapping on the tendons (such as the "knee
dementia: An acquired loss of cognitive function
that may affect language, attention, memory, personality and abstract reasoning.
demyelinating: An inflammatory process that disrupts
the myelin coating of nervous system structures.
echocardiogram: A diagnostic test to detect abnormalities
of the heart using an ultrasound probe to image the cardiac structures.
edema: Swelling; fluid is retained resulting in
EEG: (electroencephalography) The diagnostic test
that is used to study the brain wave activity. It is most useful to evaluate
the seizure disorders.
EMG/NCV: (electromyography/nerve conduction study)
A test that is used to study the nerves and muscles to help diagnose disorders
that can affect them. A small needle is placed in the muscle in the EMG. Electrical
conduction is studied in the NCV. The results are seen on an oscilloscope screen
and compared to normal values.
encephalitis: Inflammation or infection involving
evoked potentials: A series of electophysiologic tests that help to evaluate the function of specific elements of the nervous system involved in Multiple Sclerosis.
[ Back to Top ]
fasciculation: Twitching of the muscles
that is seen in diseases involving the peripheral nervous system.
gadolinium: A contrast agent that is given intravenously
during MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) to increase visualization of specific
hemiparesis: Weakness that affects
one side of the body.
hemorrhage: Bleeding (such as in brain hemorrhage).
HIV: (Human immunodeficiency virus) This is the virus
that affects the immune system and causes the disease known as AIDS (acquired
ischemia: Lack of blood flow (such as in ischemic
[ Back to Top ]
lyme disease: A disease that affects
the joints, nervous system and heart that is transmitted by the deer tick, and
is caused by a parasite known as a Borrelia.
lumbar puncture: (also known as a spinal tap) A procedure
that involves removing some of the cerebrospinal fluid from the base of the
spine. The physician will first use a local anesthetic on the skin and soft
tissues in the lower back. Cerebrospinal fluid is obtained from the spinal area
using a small needle and a syringe.
lacunar: A subtype of stroke that affects the deeper
parts of the brain and involves the tiny perforating arteries.
MRI (magnetic resonance imaging):
A technique that utilizes the properties of magnetic fields to provide images of the body. (more information on MRI)
malignant: Usually refers to tumors that are cancerous;
may refer to a disease state that has a debilitating unremitting course.
meningitis: Inflammation or infection of the meninges,
which are the coverings of the brain.
metastatic: Usually used to describe cancerous lesions
that spread to other organs in the body.
migraine: A headache syndrome characterized by throbbing,
usually one sided pain, that may be associated with nausea, vomiting and visual
motor neuron cells: The cells located in the spinal
cord that give rise to the nerves that supply the muscles.
multi-infarct dementia: A dementia that is caused
by the cumulative affect of having had many strokes in the brain.
muscular dystrophy: A congenital (hereditary) disorder
of the muscles resulting in weakness and dysfunction of the muscles.
myasthenia gravis: A disorder affecting the space between
the nerve and the muscle (neuromuscular junction) that results in transient
motor weakness of the face and limbs. Due to an autoimmune process affecting
the chemical Acetylcholine.
myelin: The outer lipid rich (fatty) layer that
covers nerves and nervous system pathways in the brain and spinal cord.
myopathy: A disease resulting in dysfunction of the
muscles usually causing weakness and atrophy.
[ Back to Top ]
narcolepsy: A syndrome that is often hereditary,
and characterized by repeated attacks of sudden sleep that may be associated
with other specific abnormalities making up the narcolepsy complex.
NPH: (normal pressure hydrocephalus) Increase in pressure
within the ventricles of the brain, causing dementia, gait difficulties and
neurons: The nerve cells of the brain that carry
out neurological function.
Neuro-opthalmology: Neuro-ophthalmology is the discipline that deals with neurologic disorders of the visual system.
nystagmus: The jerking "to and fro" movement of the
eyes that occurs when disorders affect the control of eye movement.
paraneoplastic: Disorders that occur
due to the remote effects of cancer, such as through the mechanism of hormonal
or antibody production.
paresthesias: Unusual sensory symptoms of tingling,
numbness or other abnormal feelings of sensation.
peripheral nervous system: Refers to the nerves and
photophobia: Literally means "fear of light", but
the term is used when bright light is bothersome to individuals. Often occurs
in syndromes such as migraine headache.
plaque: The lesion that occurs in the "white matter"
of the brain due to demyelination.
prophylactic: Used to describe medications or treatments
that are preventative in the treatment of disease.
ptosis: Drooping of the eyelids due to weakness of
the muscles responsible for keeping the lids open.
[ Back to Top ]
radiculopathy: Irritation and inflammation
of one of the nerve roots in the vicinity of the spinal column.
REM (rapid eye-movement sleep) The stage of sleep
that is characterized by decreased muscle tone, rapid eye movements and dreaming.
rigidity: Stiffness in the limbs or body due to dysfunction
of the basal ganglia and related structures.
sciatic nerve: A large nerve in the lumbar-sacral
spine region that is composed of multiple nerve roots that supply the lower
seizure: The abnormal electrical discharge of brain
cells (neurons) that results in a transient disturbance in brain function.
serotonin: An important neurotransmitter (communicates
information chemically between brain cells) that is involved in the pain disorders
and emotional perceptions.
sleep apnea: A disorder that results in apnea (cessation
of breathing) during sleep often due to obstruction of the upper airway.
SEP (Somatosensory Evoked Response):Measures function of Central Nervous System, including pathway from the extremities.
spasticity: Stiffness of the body involving the limbs
that results from dysfunction of the corticospinal tracts.
spinal stenosis: A syndrome that results in narrowing
of the dimensions of the spinal canal due to disc disease, bony changes, ligamentous
thickening and congenital factors.
status epilepticus: Seizures that continue for more
than twenty minutes without an intervening period of responsiveness.
subarachnoid hemorrhage: Bleeding in the area surrounding
the brain, that is usually a result of the rupturing of a cerebral aneurysm
in the brain.
[ Back to Top ]
tensilon test: A diagnostic test that is used to
confirm the disease Myasthenia Gravis. A substance that interferes with the
breakdown of acetycholine is injected intravenously, and the response is monitored.
TIA: (Transient Ischemic Attack); Neurological symptoms
occur due to transient interruption of the blood flow to the brain.
torticollis: The involuntary turning of the neck
to one side that can be seen in disorders of the basal ganglia.
toxoplasmosis: A parasitic disease that affects the
brain that occurs in patients who are immunosuppressed (such as those individuals
VER (Visual Evoked Responses): Measures function of Central Nervous System, including the pathway from optic tract.
vertebrae: Bones that make up the
vertigo: Dizziness or imbalance that often has a
spinning or rotational component.
vestibular system: The parts of the nervous system
that control equilibrium and balance.
white matter: The lipid rich myelinated
portion of the brain and spinal cord.