Neurological Disorders: Biological & Psychological Factors

Instructor: Michael Quist

Michael has taught college-level mathematics and sociology; high school math, history, science, and speech/drama; and has a doctorate in education.

Medical scientists try to find causes and factors related to various neurological disorders that trouble people across the globe. In this lesson, we will discuss some of the research and evidences related to this research.

What is a Neurological Disorder?

Charlie is in fourth grade and frustrated. When he tries to listen to the teacher and do his work, he constantly grimaces, jerks his head randomly, and grunts loudly. When he tries to hold back these impulses, they get worse. It's not fair! Why can't he just be a normal fourth-grader? Charlie has a neurological disorder called Tourette's Syndrome.


Neurological disorders are malfunctions that involve the nervous system, including the brain, spinal cord, and the nerves that provide communication throughout the body. They may be caused by injury, disease, or inherited abnormalities.

It's a crossroad between the physical body and the mind, so neurological research involves searching for causes and cures within both physical health systems (the physical body, including the brain) and mental health systems (thought processes, including emotions, dreams, etc.)

The nervous system includes the brain, spinal column, and nerve pathways

Biological Factors

The human neurological system is made up of an intricate network of neurons (nerve cells that provide communication) throughout the body and forming an incredibly complex intelligence center in the brain. Normally, this system functions invisibly, providing us with our senses, emotions, thoughts, reactions, and muscle controls.

Unfortunately, problems can happen at several different levels. The nerve cells can become malformed, causing signals to go to the wrong places or happen at the wrong times.

Neurotransmitter and neurohormone production can be affected, causing nerve misfires, emotional instability, and even organ damage. Glial cells can become damaged, disabling the communication systems they support. Injuries can cause neural damage. Toxins can alter the delicate chemistry balance.

Misfires happen across nerve synapses causing false motions and perceptions

Biological Research

Research into the physical causes and treatments of various neurological disorders includes approaches like biochemical analysis, animal research, and environmental analysis.

Biochemical analysis involves the particular chemicals that affect how your neural system works. Scientists have identified over a hundred different neurotransmitters controlling whether your nerves 'fire' or not and are learning how to use medicines to boost up the ones that are being depleted or neutralize the ones that are being over-produced.

Animal research involves the use of rats, mice, rabbits, etc. for the purpose of simulating neural environments in situations considered too dangerous for human subjects. By examining the neurological conditions of animal tissue and observing creature responses, researchers can determine effective approaches, including side effects, for various neurological conditions.

Environmental testing refers to looking at the 'big picture' around a patient or patient group. How do they live? What chemicals enter their systems through their cleaning supplies, water supplies, food, air they breathe, etc.? The chemicals and radiation present in a patient's environment can be the cause of or catalyst for creating or aggravating a neurological condition.

Examination of affected neurological tissue is providing new insights into why certain conditions occur. For example, tissue stimulation (making removed tissue 'think' it's still part of the living brain) has provided the opportunity to investigate neural connections in epileptic patients. The discovery of fused neurons (nerves that are always conducting) explains why biochemical treatments sometimes don't work.

As their understanding increases, scientists are able to synthesize new medicines, corrective procedures, and therapies to relieve the suffering of patients with neurological disorders. In addition, they can identify environmental conditions that may be a problem, allowing the patient to remove factors at home or work that may be causing problems.

Psychological Factors

Depression can alter your blood chemistry, possibly causing neural damage

The human mind has enormous influence over the neurological condition of the body. For example, if you allow yourself to become fixated on negative thoughts, you can actually modify the conditions of the hormones and neurotransmitters in your body. Thought processes can shut down. Heart, brain, and other autonomic (controlled without your thought or intent) systems can be affected.

You can see this effect for yourself just by performing a simple experiment. Notice the way your pulse and blood pressure change when you're relaxed, excited, stressed, or depressed. Your blood chemistry changes, too, which is why certain animals can 'smell fear'. Your mind has power over your body's systems.

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