Common Neurological Symptoms

The following are common symptoms of neurological disorders. Familiarity with these symptoms will help you to recognize the onset of a disorder or a new characteristic of an existing disorder.

• Seizure. A seizure is excessive electrical activity in the brain that can result in temporary loss of consciousness, memory, or motor control. The most common type of seizure, called a generalized seizure, begins with a loss of consciousness and motor control followed by violent, repetitive jerking of the limbs. During a partial seizure, a person usually remains conscious, although he or she may have hallucinations involving smell or vision, experience repetitive involuntary movements, or exhibit unusual behavior.

• Tics. Tics are involuntary and repetitive movements or actions that can be simple or complex. Simple tics are sudden, brief movements such as eye blinking, shoulder shrugging, facial grimacing, head jerking, yelping, and sniffing. Complex tics are coordinated patterns of movement involving several muscle groups such as jumping, smelling objects, touching the nose, touching other people, biting the lips, banging the head, and shouting obscenities or repeating the words of others.

• Aphasia. Aphasia refers to a disturbance or loss of language skills (comprehension, expression, or both) caused by injury to tissues in the language centers (called Broca's area and Wernicke's area) of the brain. Injury to Broca's area causes problems with language expression. Damage to Wernicke's area affects language comprehension. Global aphasia describes a loss of both language comprehension and expression caused by widespread damage to that side of the brain. Nominal aphasia refers to difficulty naming objects or thinking of a particular word. This may be caused by injury to a specific language center of the brain or by widespread brain dysfunction.

• Apraxia. Apraxia refers to the inability to perform certain tasks, such as tying one's shoes or dressing, because of loss of the ability to recall the sequence of steps that are necessary to perform such tasks. The person understands the task and sometimes can perform individual components of the task but cannot complete the entire task.

• Amnesia. Amnesia refers to loss of the ability to store information in memory or to recall information stored in memory. Amnesia can be classified broadly as immediate (lasts for a few seconds), intermediate (lasts for a few days), or long term (lasts indefinitely). Sudden amnesia can be a sign of a serious neurological disorder.

Delirium and dementia. Delirium refers to a temporary condition in which a person is disoriented and also may be irritable, fearful, delusional, or confused. Dementia refers to a permanent and progressive decline in intellectual function, insight, judgment, memory, and personality. In dementia, aphasia and apraxia (see above) may occur, along with depression, anxiety, paranoia, or an inability to recognize familiar faces, locations, or objects (agnosia). Tremor. Tremors are involuntary, rhythmic, back-and-forth movements caused by alternating contraction and relaxation of muscles. The most common type is a slight rapid tremor in the hands when the arms are stretched out in front of the body. Anxiety, fatigue, stress, and certain drugs can also cause tremors. Tremors that occur during intentional movements may result from injury to the cerebellum, the area of the brain that controls balance and coordination. Tremors that occur when a person is at rest may be due to Parkinson's disease.

Brain and Nervous System

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