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Neurological Glossary




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Abulia
Loss of will, impulse, and decision-making ability

Acalculia
Inability to do the most simple calculations

Acupuncture
A traditional Chinese system of healing in which symptoms are relieved by having thin metal needles inserted into selected points beneath the skin. The needles may be stimulated either by rotation or by an electric current and are then removed. If in any doubt about your condition, you should consult your doctor

Acute stroke
The critical stage of stroke, starting at the onset of symptoms and lasting until the patient's condition is stabilised and they enter recovery

Action tremor
Tremor that appears during movement of the affected body part

Adaptations
Modifications to the built environment designed to assist access, mobility and self reliance; such as ramps, rails, roll-in showers and stair lifts.

ADL
Activities of Daily Living. The routine tasks that we all have to perform to live independently, such as washing, dressing, using the toilet, bathing, walking and climbing stairs.

Afferent
Sensory pathway proceeding toward the CNS from the peripheral receptor organs

AFO
Ankle Foot Orthosis. A brace used to stretch the Achilles tendon. This is usually made of thin, light plastic material, which the orthosis is individually moulded and will require replacement as the child grows.

Agnosia
Inability to recognise objects or sounds due to lack of perceptive capacity, although general intelligence is normal.
  1. Auditory agnosia, where the person�s hearing is normal but he is unable to understand what words mean.
  2. Finger agnosia (sometimes used as a test for cerebral palsy), where a person is unable to identify individual fingers when, for example, they are touched by another person.
  3. Tactile agnosia, where a person is unable to identify familiar objects by touch alone although he is aware that he is touching something.
  4. Visual agnosia, where a person is able to see but unable to express ideas in words.
Aphasia
A specific defect to brain function which leads to:
  1. Expressive aphasia, when a person is unable to express ideas in words.
  2. Receptive aphasia, when a person is unable to understand spoken language.
Auditory agnosia and receptive aphasia mean much the same thing.

Agraphia
Inability to express thoughts in writing or by drawing.

Akinesia
Paucity of movement

Akinetic mutism
Disorder of consciousness characterized by periods of sleep and periods of wakefulness during which the patient lies with eyes open but is unresponsive, mute, and immobile; often due to frontal lobe damage

Alexia
Inability to read, usually due to a lesion of dominant occipitotemporal cortex

Alien hand syndrome
Syndrome characterized by the involuntary movement of a single upper limb in conjunction with the experience of estrangement from or personification of the movements of the limb; often seen in corticobasal degeneration

Allodynia
Condition in which an ordinarily painless stimulus is experienced as being painful

Alpha motor neurons
Large motor neurons that innervate extrafusal skeletal muscle fibers

Alexia
Inability to read.

Alignment
Straight position.

Alzheimer�s disease
Most common cause of dementia in older adults; a neurodegenerative disease characterized by the gradual loss of cognitive ability in association with the neuropathological findings of abnormal protein aggregates (neuritic plaques and neurofibrillary tangles) and neuron loss in the cerebral cortex

Amaurosis Fugax
A temporary loss of vision in one eye due to a blood clot blocking the flow of blood to the eye. There is complete recovery within 24 hours.

Amblyopia
Developmental abnormality in which a child fails to develop sharp visual acuity

Ambulatory
Able to walk.

Amnesia
Loss of memory.

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
(Lou Gehrig�s disease) inexorably progressive and fatal disease of unknown cause characterized by slowly progressive degeneration of upper and lower motor neurons

Analgesia
Loss of pain sensation

Anencephaly (aprosencephaly)
CNS malformation involving failure of closure of the cephalic end of the neural tube, resulting in absence of the forebrain and cerebrum; rudimentary brainstem may be present so that reflex actions such as breathing and responses to sound or touch may occur

Aneurysm (brain aneurysm, cerebral aneurysm)
A bulging formation on an artery, usually caused by hypertension or an excessive amount of fatty deposits

Anomia
Inability to name objects or to recognize written or spoken names of objects

Anosmia
Loss of sense

Anoxia
Lack of oxygen to the brain or other vital organs

Anterior cerebral artery
A branch of the internal carotid artery; supplies blood to the medial aspect of the cerebral cortex (leg area predominant), some areas of the frontal lobe, corpus callosum, caudate, and the anterior limb of the internal capsule

Anterior commissure
One of the three major groups of commissural fibers that courses through the basal ganglia and cross the midline in the anterior forebrain to interconnect the olfactory bulbs, amygdala, and hippocampal areas, among others

Anterior communicating artery
Branch of the internal carotid artery that joins together the paired anterior cerebral arteries

Anterior cord syndrome
Spinal cord injury syndrome associated with damage to the anterior 2/3 of the spinal cord, often due to occlusion of the anterior spinal artery resulting in bilateral paralysis, bladder dysfunction, and loss of pain sensation below the level of the lesion

Anterior cranial fossa
Portion of the internal base of the skull housing the frontal lobes

Anterior horn (ventral horn)
Gray matter in the front of the spinal cord that contains motor_neurons

Anton's syndrome
Form of cortical blindness in which the patient is unaware of/denies the visual impairment; due to a lesion of the occipital lobe extending from primary visual cortex into visual association cortex

Aphasia
Inability to use language. It can either be a problem understanding language (receptive) or speaking it (expressive). People are often affected by both sorts. See: Dysphasia.

Aphemia
Inability to speak words despite being able to make other sounds

Aphonia
Complete loss of voice

Aprasia
An inability to perform purposeful movements, such as using a screwdriver, which is not accompanied by an apparent muscular weakness. It is due to a dysfunction of the brain.

Apraxia
The inability to control and co-ordinate movements or carry out complex tasks when requested, caused by damage to the part of the brain responsible for voluntary movement and not by paralysis of the muscles or lack of comprehension. Can affect sequencing (ability to do things in logical order, to achieve a goal) and even speech.

Arachnoid
Middle layer of the meninges covering the brain and spinal cord

Arachnoid granulations (arachnoid villi)
Branched tufts of arachnoid that project through the dura mater into the venous sinuses and function to return CSF to the systemic circulation

Arachnoid villi
Diverticula of the arachnoid mater in the subarachnoid space that extend into the veins and venous sinuses of the dura; a major pathway for the drainage of cerebrospinal fluid and transport across the endothelium into the blood.

AROM
Active Range of Movement.

Aromatherapy
A therapy which employs aromatic plant-derived essential oils, selected according to individual needs, and normally diluted in a vegetable carrier oil for use in massage. Thought to relieve headaches, insomnia, stress and pain, and to aid relaxation and general well-being, by stimulating areas of the brain connected with mood and memory and by absorption of curative plant extracts through the skin and bloodstream. If in any doubt about your condition, you should consult your doctor.

Arcuate fasciculus
Pathway connecting Wernicke�s area in the posterior left superior temporal gyrus to Broca�s area in the left inferior frontal lobe; lesion results in impaired repetition

Area postrema
Chemoreceptor trigger zone for vomiting that is located on the dorsal surface of the medulla

Argyll-Robertson pupil
Pupil exhibiting light-near dissociation due to a lesion in the midbrain periaqueductal gray matter caused by tertiary syphilis

Arousal
Abrupt change from sleep to wakefulness, or from a "deeper" stage of non-REM sleep to a "lighter" stage

Arteriovenous malformation
A tangled collection of abnormal arteries and veins Click here for more information from the National Institute for Neurological Disorders and Stroke

Arteritis
Inflammation of an artery

Arthrokinetic nystagmus
Nystagmus induced by passive rotation of the arm of a stationary subject seated in total darkness inside a rotating drum

Ascending tract of Deiters
Direct pathway (lying just lateral to the medial longitudinal fasciculus) from the vestibular nuclei to the ipsilateral medial rectus subnucleus; clinical significance of this pathway is unclear

Aseptic meningitis
Syndrome characterized by headache, neck stiffness, low grade fever, and Cerebro Spinal Fluid lymphocytic pleocytosis in the absence of an acute bacterial pathogen; often used synonymously with viral meningitis, but also incudes meningeal inflammation due to various drugs (e.g., NSAIDs) or diagnostic procedures (e.g., angiography); atypical bacterial, fungal, parasitic, or parameningeal infection; neoplastic processes; and various systemic disorders

Associated reactions
Movements of body parts other than the ones that are intended to move, often increased with increased effort

Association cortex
Cortical areas involved in higher order processing of sensory information and integration of multiple sensory and sensorimotor modalities

Astasia
Inability to stand because of motor incoordination

Astasia-abasia
Functional stance and gait characterized by bizarre movements, typically swaying wildly and nearly falling, but then recovering at the last minute

Asteriognosis
Inability to recognise objects by touch.

Asterixis
Sudden palmar flapping movement of the hands at the wrists; indicative of metabolic encephalopathy

Astrocytes
CNS glia that function to orient neuroblast migration in the cerebral and cerebellar hemispheres, provide mechanical support, react to injury, insulate synaptic surfaces, provide a source and sink for extracellular potassium, and uptake neurotransmitters to terminate their synaptic action

Astrocytoma
Most common central nervous system tumor derived from astrocytes

Astrocytosis
Reaction of astrocytes to neuronal injury characterized by an increase in the number and size of astrocytes (primary reaction) and cytoplasmic changes including increased glial filaments and glassy eosinophilic cytoplasm followed by formation of a dense gliotic scar (secondary reaction)

Asymmetrical
Difference between two similar parts.

Ataxia
Lack of balance and uncoordinated movement.

Athetosis
Involuntary, slow, writhing movements

Atonia
Loss of muscle tone

Atonic seizure (drop attack)
Generalized seizure characterized by sudden loss of muscle tone and strength; may cause the head to drop suddenly, objects to fall from the hands, or the legs to lose strength, with falling and potential injury

Attention span
The length of time a person is able to concentrate on a given task.

Attention problems
Inability to sustain concentration because of competing stimuli or thoughts.

Athetosis
The term used to indicate a particular sort of uncontrollable movement and result from a particular brain lesion. It is present in the �athetoid� type of cerebral palsy.

ATNR
Asymmetrical tonic neck reaction. When the face is turned to one side, the arm and leg on the side to which the face is turned extend and the arm and leg on the opposite side bend. Rarely seen after 6 months of age.

Auditory agnosia
Failure to recognise specific sounds, which may be background noise, words, or even music.

Aura
Warning symptom (e.g., of vision, smell or perception) occurring prior to a spell such as a migraine or seizure; implies focal brain disturbance.

Automatism
Mechanical, seemingly aimless behaviour (e.g., lip smacking or picking at clothes) characteristic of complex partial seizures.

Autonomic
Pertaining to the autonomic nervous system, which controls bodily functions that are not under conscious control (e.g., heartbeat, breathing, sweating).

Autonomic nervous system
Part of the peripheral nervous system that regulates visceral function and homeostasis independent of voluntary control.

Autoregulation
Physiological process by which blood vessels change caliber to maintain constant cerebral blood flow over a wide range of cerebral perfusion pressures.

Ax
Assessment.

Axial
Transverse plane producing a cross-section of the body or head.

Axial Skeleton
The bones of the skull, vertebral column ribs and sternum.

Axon
Long, slender projection from the neruonal cell body that is specialized for the conduction of information encoded in the form of action potentials.

Axonal degeneration
Neuropathic process resulting in degeneration of the axon and its myelin sheath; preferentially involves the distal portion of the axon ("dying back neuropathy").

Axonal spheroid
Stereotypic axonal response to injury consisting of marked swelling due to accumulation of materials undergoing axonal transport.


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