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
Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

Expert Contributor
Christianlly Cena

Christianlly has taught college physics and facilitated laboratory courses. He has a master's degree in Physics and is pursuing his doctorate study.

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.

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Additional Activities

Neurological Disorders True or False Activity

This activity will help you assess your knowledge of the definition and causes of neurological disorders.


Determine whether the following statements are true or false. To do this, print or copy this page on a blank paper and underline or round the answer.

1. The nervous system coordinates a person's actions and sensory information by transmitting signals to and from different parts of his body.

True | False

2. Neurons, in general, are the control center of the central nervous system.

True | False

3. Multiple sclerosis is a potentially disabling disease that attacks the neurons.

True | False

4. A neurological disorder, such as encephalitis, usually develops as a result of a direct infection to the brain by a virus.

True | False

5. The myelin sheath is an excitable cell in the nervous system that functions to process and transmit information

True | False

6. Genes are segments of DNA from a cell's or an organism's genetic material.

True | False

7. A medical condition called epilepsy is characterized by seizures due to under-activity in the brain.

True | False

8. Nerve impulses are conducted by the neurons that are embedded in all parts of the body.

True | False

9. The nervous system transmits electrochemical signals that control the voluntary action of the body.

True | False

10. Malnutrition is not considered a damaging factor in the nervous system.

True | False

Answer Key

  1. True
  2. False, because the correct statement is, The brain, in general, is the control center of the central nervous system.
  3. True
  4. True
  5. False, because the correct statement is, A neuron is an excitable cell in the nervous system that functions to process and transmit information.
  6. True
  7. False, because the correct statement is, A medical condition called epilepsy is characterized by seizures due to over-activity in the brain.
  8. True
  9. True
  10. False, because the correct statement is, Malnutrition is considered a damaging factor of the nervous system.

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