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Neurological Disorders: Types, Research and Treatment News

Disabled World: Revised/Updated: 2019/09/23

Synopsis: Facts and information including recent research news and treatment options for Neurological Disorders affecting the human nervous system. A neurological disorder is defined as any disorder of the human body nervous system. There are over 600 known neurological disorders and conditions that affect the human nervous system and for many of them treatment options are extremely limited.


Main Document

A neurological disorder is any disorder of the body nervous system. Structural, biochemical or electrical abnormalities in the brain, spinal cord or other nerves can result in a range of symptoms. Examples of symptoms include paralysis, muscle weakness, poor coordination, loss of sensation, seizures, confusion, pain and altered levels of consciousness. Neurology is a medical specialty dealing with disorders of the nervous system. Specifically, it deals with the diagnosis and treatment of all categories of disease involving the central, peripheral, and autonomic nervous systems, including their coverings, blood vessels, and all effected tissue, such as muscles.

Physicians who specialize in neurology are called neurologists, and are trained to investigate, or diagnose and treat, neurological disorders. Although many mental illnesses are believed to be neurological disorders affecting the central nervous system, traditionally they are classified separately, and treated by psychiatrists.

Neurological symptoms are symptoms caused by, or occurring in, the nervous system. The nervous system consists of two anatomic parts.

  • The central nervous system, which includes the brain and spinal cord, acts as a central processing station.
  • The peripheral nervous system transmits sensory information between the muscles, tissues and nerves in the rest of the body to the brain.

When these connections are disrupted, neurological symptoms occur.

Neurological Disorders

Diagram of the human brain showing the four lobes - frontal lobe, parietal lobe, occipital lobe, and temporal lobe - of the cerebral cortex. The cerebrum or cortex is the largest part of the human brain, associated with higher brain function such as thought and action.
Diagram of the human brain showing the four lobes - frontal lobe, parietal lobe, occipital lobe, and temporal lobe - of the cerebral cortex. The cerebrum or cortex is the largest part of the human brain, associated with higher brain function such as thought and action.

There are over 600 known neurological disorders and conditions that affect the human nervous system and for many of them treatment options are extremely limited. In addition to the physical and mental toll these conditions take on patients, their families and caregivers, they also have an enormous economic impact, resulting in hundreds of billions of dollars annually in medical expenses and lost productivity.

  • Sometimes physical injury to the brain, spinal cord, or nerves can be the cause of neurological disorders.
  • Sometimes they can result from biochemical causes.
  • Other times, the cause may be unknown and only the effects are seen.

The nervous system is a complex, sophisticated system that regulates and coordinates the body's basic functions and activities. It is made up of two major divisions, including the central nervous system (consisting of the brain and spinal cord) and the peripheral nervous system (consisting of all other neural elements). Neurological disorders include diseases of the central and peripheral nervous system such as,

  • the brain
  • spinal cord
  • cranial nerves
  • peripheral nerves
  • nerve roots
  • autonomic nervous system
  • neuromuscular junction
  • muscles

These disorders include;

In addition, there are a number of diseases that attack the nervous system itself. They include;

Neurological disorders are common and can be life-threatening, like brain tumors and strokes, or less harmful (though potentially debilitating), like tension headaches and sleep disorders.

Facts and Statistics

  • The US National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) estimates that about 1 in 4 American adults suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in any given year, with nearly 6% suffering serious disabilities as a result.
  • Up to 1 billion people, nearly one in six of the world's population, suffer from neurological disorders, from Alzheimer and Parkinson disease, strokes, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy to migraine, brain injuries and neuro-infections, with some 6.8 million dying of the maladies each year, according to a United Nations 2007 report.
  • Worldwide, nearly 1 in 6 of world's population suffer from neurological disorders (UN)
  • More than 50 million people have epilepsy worldwide.
  • The prevalence of migraine is more than 10% worldwide.
  • The US National Institute for Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) estimated in a 2006 report that about 50,000 new cases of Parkinson's disease are diagnosed in the US each year, and the total number of cases in the US is at least 500,000.
  • Despite the fact that highly effective, low-cost treatments are available, as many as nine out of 10 people suffering from epilepsy in Africa go untreated.
  • Many brain disorders are chronic and incurable conditions whose disabling effects may continue for years or even decades.
  • In its 2012 annual report, the Alzheimer's Association (AA) estimates that 5.4 million people in the US have Alzheimer's disease (AD). By 2050, the AA estimates that between 11 million and 16 million Americans will have the disease, with one new case appearing every 33 seconds.
  • As the global population ages, the impact of neurological disorders will be felt both in developed and developing countries, reaching a significant proportion in countries with a growing percentage of the population over 65 years.
  • In Europe it has been estimated that 35% of all disease burden is attributable to brain disorders (Olesen & Leonardi 2003).
  • The US National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) estimates that about 1 in 4 American adults suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in any given year, with nearly 6% suffering serious disabilities as a result.
  • Approximately 6.2 million people die because of stroke each year.
  • Alzheimer's disease is the most common cause of dementia and may contribute to 60 to 70% of cases.
  • It is estimated that there are globally 35.6 million people with dementia with 7.7 million new cases every year.
  • The World Health Organization reports that various types of neurological disorders affect millions of people around the world, including 24 million that suffer from Alzheimer's disease and 326 million who experience migraines.
  • The US National Institute for Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) estimated in a 2006 report that about 50,000 new cases of Parkinson's disease are diagnosed in the US each year, and the total number of cases in the US is at least 500,000.
  • Per 1,000 children, estimated prevalence was 5.8 for autism spectrum disorder and 2.4 for cerebral palsy; for Tourette syndrome, the data were insufficient. In the general population, per 1,000, the 1-year prevalence for migraine was 121, 7.1 for epilepsy, and 0.9 for multiple sclerosis. Among the elderly, the prevalence of Alzheimer disease was 67 and that of Parkinson disease was 9.5. For diseases best described by annual incidence per 100,000, the rate for stroke was 183, 101 for major traumatic brain injury, 4.5 for spinal cord injury, and 1.6 for ALS. (www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17261678).
  • The WHO estimates that unipolar depression is the third leading causes of disease burden worldwide, (after lower respiratory infections and diarrheal diseases), and the number one cause in the high-income countries.
  • Autism and Autism Spectrum Disorders are now estimated to affect 1 in 88 children living in the US, according to a 2012 report from the Centers for Disease Control.
  • In its 2012 annual report, the Alzheimer's Association (AA) estimates that 5.4 million people in the US have Alzheimer's disease (AD). By 2050, the AA estimates that between 11 million and 16 million Americans will have the disease, with one new case appearing every 33 seconds.

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