What are Neurological Disorders? - Definitions & Causes

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  • 0:01 Power Outages
  • 0:21 Neurological Disorders
  • 1:50 Drugs, Myelin Sheath, & DNA
  • 4:48 Injury, Infection, Supply
  • 6:31 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Artem Cheprasov
There are a ton of reasons for why your body's nervous system may fail. We'll go over what the nervous system is, what neurological disorders are, the many things that cause them, and what neurons and the myelin sheath have to do with all of this in this lesson.

Power Outages

If the power goes out in your home it could be because the power plant has experienced some sort of failure, the wires running to your home were knocked down by a tree in a storm, or maybe there's something wrong with your home's internal wiring. There are many reasons. The same thing goes for your nervous system, as there are many things that can cause it to malfunction.

Neurological Disorders

A neurological disorder is a condition that affects the health, function, and even structure of a person's nervous system. The nervous system is a collection of tissues and cells that help to transmit electrochemical signals about the body in order to stop or promote a voluntary and involuntary action. That mouthful of a definition is much easier to understand than it seems.

You see, your city's power plant generates electricity and electrical signals that are sent via power lines to homes in order to power your home and everything within it. Some of the things powered in your home are working in the background, meaning you don't even think about them, like your electric water pump in the basement. Other things you consciously power on, like the microwave.

Your nervous system works in the exact same way. The power plant is your brain. It sends electrical power and signals via power lines called neurons in your body. Neurons are synonymous with nerve cells. These neurons are like the power line post and wire coming off of it that travel to different homes, or cells and organs in your body. Some of the processes this electrical signal powers are things you don't even think about; they're in the background, like your heartbeat. Other things are voluntarily or consciously controlled by you, like moving your hand up and down.

Drugs, Myelin Sheath, and DNA

If anything causes this power structure to go haywire, a neurological disorder will result. We'll discuss some of the things that can cause this and what this may end up looking like.

First, drugs, toxins, and poisons can cause a multitude of problems within your nervous system. The famous story of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is a great analogy here. If you've ever read the story, the respectable Dr. Jekyll drinks a potion and turns into a completely different character, Mr. Hyde, who is quite an evil man. Likely, whatever is located in this potion, just like the substances found in many real-life drugs and toxins, wreaks havoc on the nervous system and causes it to go haywire.

Some of these toxins cause power shortages that can cause a person, like a house's electricity, to shut down. Other poisons create power surges that cause sparks to fly everywhere. One notable real-world example of this is epilepsy, where over-activity of the electricity in the brain causes people to experience jerky movements characteristic of this disease.

But there's more to neurological disorders than poison. If you've ever had some really old TV or radio burn out on you, it may have been because the wires that were powering it inside had some busted insulation. Insulation around a wire helps the electrical signal travel more efficiently through the wire. If the insulation cracks or peels away, then the TV might flicker or the radio may just fall silent.

The insulation around a neuron is called a myelin sheath. There are, unfortunately, quite a number of autoimmune diseases, diseases where the body attacks itself, that actually destroy your internal wiring's insulation. One famous such disorder is multiple sclerosis. The destruction of this insulation, just like with TVs and radios, causes improper signal conduction. In our body, this causes problems with movement, coordination, and sensation.

Sometimes, the problem has nothing to do with insulation or even the power supply to the home. Sometimes the problem is just shoddy workmanship. If a house's internal wiring is not set up adequately, that clearly will lead to all sorts of dysfunction. Our body's workmanship is determined not by a subcontractor, but by our genes, the DNA of our body. If the DNA, the architect and engineer of our home all in one, codes for a wrong design in something, then the body's internal wiring will be off and will not work right. A famous example of this problem is autism.

Injury, Infection, Supply

One other major cause of neurological disorder is injury. If you cut a wire in your home leading up to your fridge, the fridge will stop working because the signal and power for it to work is lost. Some people who suffer terrible injuries, such as in a car accident, may sever a nerve to a place like their arm. If the nerve is severed, it cannot power the muscle it used to control. This means the person may no longer be able to move part of their arm.

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