(888) 39-MERCY
Wisconsin & Illinois

Neuroscience: Frequently asked questions

What is neuroscience?

Neuroscience is the study of the nervous system. It attempts to define how the brain and spinal cord function, as well as how disease processes develop within the nervous system. As a discipline, neuroscience encompasses the diagnosis and management of disease and/or injury to the brain, spinal cord, and related nerve structures.

What are the parts of the central nervous system?

The central nervous system (CNS) is the part of the nervous system that integrates information that it receives and coordinates the activity of all parts of the body. It contains the majority of the nervous system and consists of the brain and the spinal cord. Together with the peripheral nervous system, it has a fundamental role in the control of behavior.

What’s the difference between a neurologist and a neurosurgeon?

A neurologist is a physician specialist who diagnoses and treats medical disorders of the nervous system. They will perform detailed examination of the neurological structures of the body and use their expertise in diagnosis, technology and latest research advances to develop a treatment and management plan.

A neurosurgeon is a physician who specializes in surgical intervention for those diseases or conditions of the nervous system that have failed conservative (nonsurgical) treatment or are emergent and critical in nature. The neurosurgeon will also perform a detailed comprehensive neurological examination and appropriate diagnostic testing, often including radiographic imaging (e.g., CT scan, MRI, x-rays) to assess the neurological problem. Neurosurgery provides both operative and nonoperative management of nervous system disorders that may affect the central, peripheral, and/or autonomic nervous systems.

What is multidisciplinary neuroscience care?

Care for the neuroscience patient is accomplished through an integrated, team approach to design a customized plan of care for each and every patient. The neuroscience team will usually have a neurosurgeon, neurologist, or physiatrist as the team leader, but may involve visits to multiple disciplines as deemed appropriate. The neuroscience team functions as a multidisciplinary team and will collaborate to create a focused plan of care to treat the neurological problem.

What are some common disorders of the nervous system?

The nervous system can be affected by a wide variety of disorders. Primary categories of problems that may affect the nervous system include:

  • Degenerative changes (Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis, degenerative disc disease, spinal spondylosis)
  • Structural defects (arteriovenous malformation, aneurysm, peripheral neuropathy, carpal tunnel syndrome, Bell’s palsy, trigeminal neuralgia)
  • Tumors (brain, pituitary or spinal cord tumors, acoustic neuroma, neurofibromatosis)
  • Autoimmune dysfunction, infections (meningitis, encephalitis, discitis, osteomyelitis)
  • Trauma (skull fracture, brain or spinal cord injury, epidural hematoma, subdural hematoma)
  • Disruption of blood flow (stroke, transient ischemic attack, subarachnoid hemorrhage, subdural hemorrhage/hematoma, epidural hematoma)
  • Functional disorders (headache, epilepsy, vertigo, neuralgia/neuropathic pain)
  • What are some of the common signs and symptoms of neurological disease?
  • Persistent or sudden onset of headache (one that changes, presents differently or is progressive)
  • Loss of feeling/numbness/tingling (pins and needles)
  • Pain which radiates from the neck or back into the arms/hands or legs/feet
  • Weakness or loss of muscle strength
  • Sudden loss of sight; double vision or blurred vision
  • Memory loss
  • Impaired mental ability, confusion
  • Diminished or loss of coordination
  • Muscle rigidity
  • Tremors or seizures

This list is not all-inclusive, and patients often have a very individualized presentation, with differing combinations of symptoms. Additionally, symptoms of nervous system disorder may resemble other medical conditions, and proper diagnosis must be confirmed. Disorders of the nervous system are sometimes very complex; therefore, always consult your physician to determine a diagnosis.

Neuroscience main page.