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Central nervous system

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The CNS consists of the brain and spinal cord, which are located in the dorsal body cavity. The brain is surrounded by the cranium, and the spinal cord is protected by the vertebrae. The brain is continuous with the spinal cord at the foramen magnum. In addition to bone, the CNS is surrounded by connective tissue membranes, called meninges, and by cerebrospinal fluid.

Central Nervous System - Peripheral Nervous System
Central Nervous System - Peripheral Nervous System

Parts of CNS

The nervous system has two main parts:

  1. The central nervous system is made up of the brain and spinal cord.
  2. The peripheral nervous system is made up of nerves that branch off from the spinal cord and extend to all parts of the body.

Purpose of the nervous system

The nervous system transmits signals between the brain and the rest of the body, including internal organs. In this way, the nervous system’s activity controls the ability to move, breathe, see, think, and more.

Neuron, the basic unit

The basic unit of the nervous system is a nerve cell, or neuron. The human brain contains about 100 billion neurons. A neuron has a cell body, which includes the cell nucleus, and special extensions called axons (pronounced AK-sonz) and dendrites (pronounced DEN-drahytz). Bundles of axons, called nerves, are found throughout the body. Axons and dendrites allow neurons to communicate, even across long distances.

Brain

The brain is made up of many networks of communicating neurons and glia. These networks allow different parts of the brain to “talk” to each other and work together to control body functions, emotions, thinking, behavior, and other activities

Glossary of terms

  • Abscess -  symptom consisting of a localized collection of pus surrounded by inflamed tissue
  • Acromegaly -  enlargement of bones of hands and feet and face; often accompanied by headache and muscle pain and emotional disturbances; caused by overproduction of growth hormone by the anterior pituitary gland (due to a tumor)
  • action potential -  the local voltage change across the cell wall as a nerve impulse is transmitted
  • addiction -  (Roman law) a formal award by a magistrate of a thing or person to another person (as the award of a debtor to his creditor); a surrender to a master; an abnormally strong craving; being abnormally tolerant to and dependent on something that is psychologically or physically habit-forming (especially alcohol or narcotic drugs)
  • Adenoma -  a benign epithelial tumor of glandular origin
  • adhd -  a condition (mostly in boys) characterized by behavioral and learning disorders
  • adrenaline -  a catecholamine secreted by the adrenal medulla in response to stress (trade name Adrenalin); stimulates autonomic nerve action
  • Agnosia -  inability to recognize objects by use of the senses
  • Agraphia -  a loss of the ability to write or to express thoughts in writing because of a brain lesion
  • AI -  the introduction of semen into the oviduct or uterus by some means other than sexual intercourse; a sloth that has three long claws on each forefoot and each hindfoot; the branch of computer science that deal with writing computer programs that can solve problems creatively; an agency of the United States Army responsible for providing timely and relevant and accurate and synchronized intelligence to tactical and operational and strategic level commanders
  • allele -  either of a pair (or series) of alternative forms of a gene that can occupy the same locus on a particular chromosome and that control the same character
  • ALS -  thickening of tissue in the motor tracts of the lateral columns and anterior horns of the spinal cord; results in progressive muscle atrophy that starts in the limbs
  • Alzheimer's disease -  a progressive form of presenile dementia that is similar to senile dementia except that it usually starts in the 40s or 50s; first symptoms are impaired memory which is followed by impaired thought and speech and finally complete helplessness
  • Amaurosis -  partial or total loss of sight without pathology of the eye; caused by disease of optic nerve or retina or brain
  • Amenorrhea -  absence or suppression of normal menstrual flow
  • American football -  a game played by two teams of 11 players on a rectangular field 100 yards long; teams try to get possession of the ball and advance it across the opponents goal line in a series of (running or passing) plays
  • amino acid -  organic compounds containing an amino group and a carboxylic acid group
  • Amnesia -  partial or total loss of memory
  • amygdala -  an almond-shaped neural structure in the anterior part of the temporal lobe of the cerebrum; intimately connected with the hypothalamus and the hippocampus and the cingulate gyrus; as part of the limbic system it plays an important role in motivation and emotional behavior
  • amyloid plaque -  a plaque consisting of tangles of amyloid protein in nervous tissue (a pathological mark of Alzheimer's disease)
  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis -  thickening of tissue in the motor tracts of the lateral columns and anterior horns of the spinal cord; results in progressive muscle atrophy that starts in the limbs
  • amyotrophic lateral sclerosis -  thickening of tissue in the motor tracts of the lateral columns and anterior horns of the spinal cord; results in progressive muscle atrophy that starts in the limbs
  • Analgesia -  absence of the sense of pain without loss of consciousness
  • Anaplasia -  loss of structural differentiation within a cell or group of cells often with increased capacity for multiplication, as in a malignant tumor
  • Anastomosis -  a natural or surgical joining of parts or branches of tubular structures so as to make or become continuous
  • Anencephaly -  a defect in brain development resulting in small or missing brain hemispheres
  • Anesthesia -  loss of bodily sensation with or without loss of consciousness
  • Anesthesiologist -  a specialist who administers an anesthetic to a patient before he is treated
  • Aneurysm -  a cardiovascular disease characterized by a saclike widening of an artery resulting from weakening of the artery wall
  • Angiogram -  an X-ray representation of blood vessels made after the injection of a radiopaque substance
  • Angiography -  roentgenographic examination of blood vessels after injection of a radiopaque contrast medium; produces an angiogram
  • Anorexia -  a prolonged disorder of eating due to loss of appetite
  • Anosmic - adj. having impaired sense of smell; relating to an impairment or loss of the sense of smell
  • Anoxia -  severe hypoxia; absence of oxygen in inspired gases or in arterial blood or in the tissues
  • anxiety -  a vague unpleasant emotion that is experienced in anticipation of some (usually ill-defined) misfortune; a relatively permanent state of anxiety occurring in a variety of mental disorders
  • Aphasia -  inability to use or understand language (spoken or written) because of a brain lesion
  • Apnea -  transient cessation of respiration
  • Apoplexy -  a sudden loss of consciousness resulting when the rupture or occlusion of a blood vessel leads to oxygen lack in the brain
  • apoptosis -  a type of cell death in which the cell uses specialized cellular machinery to kill itself; a cell suicide mechanism that enables metazoans to control cell number and eliminate cells that threaten the animal's survival
  • Arachnoid - adj. relating to or resembling a member of the class Arachnida;  the middle of the 3 meninges; air-breathing arthropods characterized by simple eyes and four pairs of legs
  • Area -  a part of a structure having some specific characteristic or function; the extent of a 2-dimensional surface enclosed within a boundary; a part of an animal that has a special function or is supplied by a given artery or nerve; a subject of study; a particular geographical region of indefinite boundary (usually serving some special purpose or distinguished by its people or culture or geography); a particular environment or walk of life
  • artificial intelligence -  the branch of computer science that deal with writing computer programs that can solve problems creatively
  • Astrocyte -  comparatively large neuroglial cell
  • Ataxia -  inability to coordinate voluntary muscle movements; unsteady movements and staggering gait
  • Athetosis -  a continuous succession of slow, writhing, involuntary movements of the hands and feet and other body parts
  • Atrophy -  any weakening or degeneration (especially through lack of use); a decrease in size of an organ caused by disease or disuse; verb undergo atrophy
  • Auditory agnosia -  inability to recognize or understand the meaning of spoken words
  • auditory cortex -  the cortical area that receives auditory information from the medial geniculate body
  • Autonomic nervous system -  the part of the nervous system of vertebrates that controls involuntary actions of the smooth muscles and heart and glands
  • Axon -  long nerve fiber that conducts away from the cell body of the neuron
  • Bactericidal - adj. preventing infection by inhibiting the growth or action of microorganisms
  • basilar artery -  an unpaired artery; supplies the pons and cerebellum and the back part of the cerebrum and the inner ear
  • Becker muscular dystrophy -  a form of muscular dystrophy that sets in in adolescence or adulthood and progresses slowly but will affect all voluntary muscles; characterized by generalized weakness and muscle wasting that affects limb and trunk muscles first; similar to Duchenne's muscular dystrophy but less severe; inheritance is X-linked recessive (carried by females but affecting only males)
  • Biopsy -  examination of tissues or liquids from the living body to determine the existence or cause of a disease
  • bipolar disorder -  a mental disorder characterized by episodes of mania and depression
  • brain-stem -  the part of the brain continuous with the spinal cord and comprising the medulla oblongata and pons and midbrain and parts of the hypothalamus
  • Broca's area -  the motor speech center in the left hemisphere of the brain in most people
  • Carcinoma -  any malignant tumor derived from epithelial tissue; one of the four major types of cancer
  • Carotid artery -  either of two major arteries of the neck and head; branches from the aorta
  • Carpal tunnel -  a passageway in the wrist through which nerves and the flexor muscles of the hands pass
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome -  a painful disorder caused by compression of a nerve in the carpal tunnel; characterized by discomfort and weakness in the hands and fingers and by sensations of tingling, burning or numbness
  • Catheter -  a thin flexible tube inserted into the body to permit introduction or withdrawal of fluids or to keep the passageway open
  • Caudate nucleus -  a tail-shaped basal ganglion located in a lateral ventricle of the brain
  • central nervous system -  the portion of the vertebrate nervous system consisting of the brain and spinal cord
  • central sulcus -  a brain fissure extending upward on the lateral surface of both hemispheres; separates the frontal and parietal lobes
  • Cerebellum -  a major division of the vertebrate brain; situated above the medulla oblongata and beneath the cerebrum in humans
  • cerebral palsy -  a loss or deficiency of motor control with involuntary spasms caused by permanent brain damage present at birth
  • Cerebrospinal fluid -  clear liquid produced in the ventricles of the brain; fills and protects cavities in the brain and spinal cord
  • cerebrospinal fluid -  clear liquid produced in the ventricles of the brain; fills and protects cavities in the brain and spinal cord
  • Cerebrum -  anterior portion of the brain consisting of two hemispheres; dominant part of the brain in humans
  • Cervical - adj. relating to or associated with the neck; of or relating to the cervix of the uterus
  • Chiasm -  an intersection or crossing of two tracts in the form of the letter X
  • Chorea -  any of several degenerative nervous disorders characterized by spasmodic movements of the body and limbs; chorea in dogs
  • Choroid plexus -  a vascular plexus of the cerebral ventricles that regulate intraventricular pressure
  • chromosome -  a threadlike body in the cell nucleus that carries the genes in a linear order
  • Cluster headache -  a painful recurring headache associated with the release of histamine from cells
  • Coccyx -  the end of the vertebral column in humans and tailless apes
  • cochlea -  the snail-shaped tube (in the inner ear coiled around the modiolus) where sound vibrations are converted into nerve impulses by the organ of Corti
  • cognition -  the psychological result of perception and learning and reasoning
  • cognitive neuroscience -  the branch of neuroscience that studies the biological foundations of mental phenomena
  • Coma -  a state of deep and often prolonged unconsciousness; usually the result of disease or injury; (astronomy) the luminous cloud of particles surrounding the frozen nucleus of a comet; forms as the comet approaches the sun and is warmed; a usually terminal tuft of hairs especially on a seed
  • Computed tomography -  a method of examining body organs by scanning them with X rays and using a computer to construct a series of cross-sectional scans along a single axis
  • computer scientist -  a scientist who specializes in the theory of computation and the design of computers
  • Concussion -  any violent blow; injury to the brain caused by a blow; usually resulting in loss of consciousness
  • Conduction aphasia -  aphasia in which the lesion is assumed to be in the association tracts connecting the various language centers in the brain; patient's have difficulty repeating a sentence just heard
  • cone -  any cone-shaped artifact; visual receptor cell sensitive to color; cone-shaped mass of ovule- or spore-bearing scales or bracts; a shape whose base is a circle and whose sides taper up to a point; verb make cone-shaped
  • consciousness -  an alert cognitive state in which you are aware of yourself and your situation; having knowledge of
  • Contrast medium -  a substance that is opaque to x-rays; when administered it allows a radiologist to examine the organ or tissue it fills
  • Contusion -  the action of bruising; an injury that doesn't break the skin but results in some discoloration
  • Coronal suture -  the suture between the parietal and frontal bones of the skull
  • corpus callosum -  a broad transverse nerve tract connecting the two cerebral hemispheres
  • Cortex -  the tissue forming the outer layer of an organ or structure in plant or animal; the layer of unmyelinated neurons (the grey matter) forming the cortex of the cerebrum
  • cortisol -  an adrenal-cortex hormone (trade names Hydrocortone or Cortef) that is active in carbohydrate and protein metabolism
  • Craniotomy -  a surgical opening through the skull
  • Cranium -  the part of the skull that encloses the brain
  • ct -  a method of examining body organs by scanning them with X rays and using a computer to construct a series of cross-sectional scans along a single axis; a New England state; one of the original 13 colonies
  • dementia -  mental deterioration of organic or functional origin
  • deoxyribonucleic acid -  (biochemistry) a long linear polymer found in the nucleus of a cell and formed from nucleotides and shaped like a double helix; associated with the transmission of genetic information
  • depression -  pushing down; sad feelings of gloom and inadequacy; angular distance below the horizon (especially of a celestial object); a concavity in a surface produced by pressing; a mental state characterized by a pessimistic sense of inadequacy and a despondent lack of activity; a long-term economic state characterized by unemployment and low prices and low levels of trade and investment; a period during the 1930s when there was a worldwide economic depression and mass unemployment; a sunken or depressed geological formation; a state of depression and anhedonia so severe as to require clinical intervention; an air mass of lower pressure; often brings precipitation
  • Diabetes insipidus -  a rare form of diabetes resulting from a deficiency of vasopressin (the pituitary hormone that regulates the kidneys); characterized by the chronic excretion of large amounts of pale dilute urine which results in dehydration and extreme thirst
  • Diphenhydramine -  antihistamine (trade name Benadryl) used to treat allergic reactions involving the nasal passages (hay fever) and also to treat motion sickness
  • Diphenylhydantoin -  an anticonvulsant drug (trade name Dilantin) used to treat epilepsy and that is not a sedative
  • Diplopia -  visual impairment in which an object is seen as two objects
  • Disc -  a flat circular plate; (computer science) a memory device consisting of a flat disk covered with a magnetic coating on which information is stored; sound recording consisting of a disk with a continuous groove; used to reproduce music by rotating while a phonograph needle tracks in the groove; something with a round shape like a flat circular plate
  • Distal muscular dystrophy -  a form of muscular dystrophy that sets in between 40 and 60 years of age and is characterized by weakness and wasting of the muscles of the hands and forearms and lower legs; inheritance is autosomal dominant
  • DNA -  (biochemistry) a long linear polymer found in the nucleus of a cell and formed from nucleotides and shaped like a double helix; associated with the transmission of genetic information
  • Dome -  a hemispherical roof; a stadium that has a roof; a concave shape whose distinguishing characteristic is that the concavity faces downward; informal terms for a human head
  • dominant gene -  gene that produces the same phenotype in the organism whether or not its allele identical
  • dopamine -  a monoamine neurotransmitter found in the brain and essential for the normal functioning of the central nervous system; as a drug (trade names Dopastat and Intropin) it is used to treat shock and hypotension
  • Doppler -  Austrian physicist famous for his discovery of the Doppler effect (1803-1853)
  • double helix -  a pair of parallel helices intertwined about a common axis
  • Down syndrome -  a congenital disorder caused by having an extra 21st chromosome; results in a flat face and short stature and mental retardation
  • Dura -  the outermost (and toughest) of the 3 meninges
  • Dura mater -  the outermost (and toughest) of the 3 meninges
  • dyslexia -  impaired ability to learn to read
  • Dysphasia -  an impairment of language (especially speech production) that is usually due to brain damage
  • ECT -  the administration of a strong electric current that passes through the brain to induce convulsions and coma
  • Edema -  swelling from excessive accumulation of serous fluid in tissue
  • eeg -  a graphical record of electrical activity of the brain; produced by an electroencephalograph
  • electrical engineer -  a person trained in practical applications of the theory of electricity
  • electroconvulsive therapy -  the administration of a strong electric current that passes through the brain to induce convulsions and coma
  • Electromyography -  diagnosis of neuromuscular disorders with the use of an electromyograph
  • emg -  a graphical record of electric currents associated with muscle contractions
  • Encephalitis lethargica -  an encephalitis that was epidemic between 1915 and 1926; symptoms include paralysis of the extrinsic eye muscle and extreme muscular weakness
  • Endarterectomy -  surgical removal of the inner lining of an artery that is clogged with atherosclerosis
  • Endocrine gland -  any of the glands of the endocrine system that secrete hormones directly into the bloodstream
  • endocrine system -  the system of glands that produce endocrine secretions that help to control bodily metabolic activity
  • enzyme -  any of several complex proteins that are produced by cells and act as catalysts in specific biochemical reactions
  • Ependyma -  thin epithelial membrane lining the ventricles of the brain and the spinal cord canal
  • Epidural - adj. on or outside the dura mater;  regional anesthesia resulting from injection of an anesthetic into the epidural space of the spinal cord; sensation is lost in the abdominal and genital and pelvic areas; used in childbirth and gynecological surgery
  • Epilepsy -  a disorder of the central nervous system characterized by loss of consciousness and convulsions
  • Essential tremor -  tremor of unknown cause (usually of the hands and head) that develops in older people; often mistaken for Parkinsonism but is not life-threatening and can usually be kept under control
  • Expressive aphasia -  aphasia in which expression by speech or writing is severely impaired
  • fissure -  (anatomy) a long narrow slit or groove that divides an organ into lobes; a long narrow opening; a long narrow depression in a surface; verb break into fissures or fine cracks
  • Flaccid paralysis -  weakness or loss of muscle tone resulting from injury or disease of the nerves innervating the muscles
  • Flaccid paralysis -  weakness or loss of muscle tone resulting from injury or disease of the nerves innervating the muscles
  • fmri -  a form of magnetic resonance imaging of the brain that registers blood flow to functioning areas of the brain
  • Fontanelle -  any membranous gap between the bones of the cranium in an infant or fetus
  • Friedreich's ataxia -  sclerosis of the posterior and lateral columns of the spinal cord; characterized by muscular weakness and abnormal gait; occurs in children
  • frontal lobe -  that part of the cerebral cortex in either hemisphere of the brain lying directly behind the forehead
  • GABA -  an amino acid that is found in the central nervous system; acts as an inhibitory neurotransmitter
  • gamma aminobutyric acid -  an amino acid that is found in the central nervous system; acts as an inhibitory neurotransmitter
  • gene -  (genetics) a segment of DNA that is involved in producing a polypeptide chain; it can include regions preceding and following the coding DNA as well as introns between the exons; it is considered a unit of heredity
  • gene expression -  conversion of the information encoded in a gene first into messenger RNA and then to a protein
  • Generalized epilepsy -  epilepsy in which the attack involves loss of consciousness and tonic spasms of the musculature followed by generalized jerking
  • genome -  the ordering of genes in a haploid set of chromosomes of a particular organism; the full DNA sequence of an organism
  • Glia -  sustentacular tissue that surrounds and supports neurons in the central nervous system; glial and neural cells together compose the tissue of the central nervous system
  • glia -  sustentacular tissue that surrounds and supports neurons in the central nervous system; glial and neural cells together compose the tissue of the central nervous system
  • Glioblastoma -  a fast-growing malignant brain tumor composed of spongioblasts; nearly always fatal
  • Glioma -  a tumor of the brain consisting of neuroglia
  • glucose -  a monosaccharide sugar that has several forms; an important source of physiological energy
  • gray matter -  greyish nervous tissue containing cell bodies as well as fibers; forms the cerebral cortex consisting of unmyelinated neurons
  • gyrus -  a convex fold or elevation in the surface of the brain
  • Hemangioma -  benign angioma consisting of a mass of blood vessels; some appear as birthmarks
  • Hematoma -  a localized swelling filled with blood
  • Hemianopia -  blindness in one half of the visual field of one or both eyes
  • hemisphere -  either half of the cerebrum; half of the terrestrial globe; half of a sphere
  • Hemorrhage -  flow of blood from a ruptured blood vessels; verb lose blood from one's body
  • hippocampus -  seahorses; a complex neural structure (shaped like a sea horse) consisting of grey matter and located on the floor of each lateral ventricle; intimately involved in motivation and emotion as part of the limbic system; has a central role in the formation of memories
  • Hormone -  the secretion of an endocrine gland that is transmitted by the blood to the tissue on which it has a specific effect
  • Horner's syndrome -  a pattern of symptoms occurring as a result of damage to nerves in the cervical region of the spine (drooping eyelids and constricted pupils and absence of facial sweating)
  • Hydrocephalus -  an abnormal condition in which cerebrospinal fluid collects in the ventricles of the brain; in infants it can cause abnormally rapid growth of the head and bulging fontanelles and a small face; in adults the symptoms are primarily neurological
  • Hyperacusis -  abnormal acuteness of hearing due to increased irritability of the sensory neural mechanism; characterized by intolerance for ordinary sound levels
  • Hyperpituitarism -  excessive activity of the pituitary gland (especially overactivity of the anterior lobe which leads to excess secretion of growth hormone)
  • Hypertension -  a common disorder in which blood pressure remains abnormally high (a reading of 140/90 mm Hg or greater)
  • Hypothalamus -  a basal part of the diencephalon governing autonomic nervous system
  • in vitro - adj. in an artificial environment outside the living organism; adv. in an artificial environment outside the living organism
  • in vivo - adj. within a living organism; adv. in the living organism
  • Infundibulum -  any of various funnel-shaped parts of the body (but especially the hypophyseal stalk)
  • Ischemia -  local anemia in a given body part sometimes resulting from vasoconstriction or thrombosis or embolism
  • ketamine -  a general anesthetic and tranquilizer (not a barbiturate) that is administered intravenously or intramuscularly; used mainly by veterinarians or for minor surgery with geriatric or pediatric patients; taken in large doses it causes hallucinations similar to those associated with the use of PCP
  • Labyrinth -  complex system of paths or tunnels in which it is easy to get lost; a complex system of interconnecting cavities; concerned with hearing and equilibrium
  • Lamina -  a thin plate or layer (especially of bone or mineral)
  • Laminectomy -  surgical removal of the bony arches on one or more vertebrae
  • Learning disability -  a disorder found in children of normal intelligence who have difficulties in learning specific skills
  • Leptomeninges -  the two innermost layers of the meninges; cerebrospinal fluid circulates between these innermost layers
  • lesion -  any visible abnormal structural change in a bodily part; any break in the skin or an organ caused by violence or surgical incision
  • limbic system -  a system of functionally related neural structures in the brain that are involved in emotional behavior
  • Linear accelerator -  ions are accelerated along a linear path by voltage differences on electrodes along the path
  • Lipoma -  a tumor consisting of fatty tissue
  • Locomotor ataxia -  syphilis of the spinal cord characterized by degeneration of sensory neurons and stabbing pains in the trunk and legs and unsteady gait and incontinence and impotence
  • Lordosis -  an abnormal inward (forward) curvature of the vertebral column
  • Lou gehrig's disease -  thickening of tissue in the motor tracts of the lateral columns and anterior horns of the spinal cord; results in progressive muscle atrophy that starts in the limbs
  • medulla oblongata -  lower or hindmost part of the brain; continuous with spinal cord; (`bulb' is an old term for medulla oblongata)
  • Megestrol acetate -  a synthetic progestational compound used to treat endometrial carcinoma
  • melatonin -  hormone secreted by the pineal gland
  • memory -  an electronic memory device; the power of retaining and recalling past experience; the cognitive processes whereby past experience is remembered; something that is remembered; the area of cognitive psychology that studies memory processes
  • Meninges -  a membrane (one of 3) that envelops the brain and spinal cord
  • Meningioma -  a tumor arising in the meninges which surround the brain and spinal cord; usually slow growing and sometimes malignant
  • Meningitis -  infectious disease characterized by inflammation of the meninges (the tissues that surround the brain or spinal cord) usually caused by a bacterial infection; symptoms include headache and stiff neck and fever and nausea
  • Meningocele -  a congenital anomaly of the central nervous system in which a sac protruding from the brain or the spinal meninges contains cerebrospinal fluid (but no nerve tissue)
  • mental health -  the psychological state of someone who is functioning at a satisfactory level of emotional and behavioral adjustment
  • Methamphetamine -  an amphetamine derivative (trade name Methedrine) used in the form of a crystalline hydrochloride; used as a stimulant to the nervous system and as an appetite suppressant
  • Methylphenidate -  central nervous system stimulant (trade name Ritalin) used in the treatment of narcolepsy in adults and attention deficit disorder in children
  • microglia -  neuroglial tissue of mesodermal origin that can become phagocytic
  • midbrain -  the middle portion of the brain
  • molecular biology -  the branch of biology that studies the structure and activity of macromolecules essential to life (and especially with their genetic role)
  • mood -  verb inflections that express how the action or state is conceived by the speaker; a characteristic (habitual or relatively temporary) state of feeling; the prevailing psychological state
  • Motion sickness -  the state of being dizzy or nauseated because of the motions that occur while traveling in or on a moving vehicle
  • motor cortex -  the cortical area that influences motor movements
  • Mri -  the use of nuclear magnetic resonance of protons to produce proton density images
  • Multiple sclerosis -  a chronic progressive nervous disorder involving loss of myelin sheath around certain nerve fibers
  • Muscular dystrophy -  any of several hereditary diseases of the muscular system characterized by weakness and wasting of skeletal muscles
  • mutation -  a change or alteration in form or qualities; (genetics) any event that changes genetic structure; any alteration in the inherited nucleic acid sequence of the genotype of an organism; (biology) an organism that has characteristics resulting from chromosomal alteration
  • Myasthenia gravis -  a chronic progressive disease characterized by chronic fatigue and muscular weakness (especially in the face and neck); caused by a deficiency of acetylcholine at the neuromuscular junctions
  • Myelin -  a white fatty substance that forms a medullary sheath around the axis cylinder of some nerve fibers
  • Myelogram -  X-ray film of the spinal cord and spinal nerve roots and subarachnoid space
  • Myelomeningocele -  a congenital defect of the central nervous system in which a sac containing part of the spinal cord and its meninges protrude through a gap in the vertebral column; frequently accompanied by hydrocephalus and mental retardation
  • Myopathy -  any pathology of the muscles that is not attributable to nerve dysfunction
  • Myotonia congenita -  a mild, rare, congenital form of myotonia characterized by muscle stiffness
  • Myotonic dystrophy -  a severe form of muscular dystrophy marked by generalized weakness and muscular wasting that affects the face and feet and hands and neck; difficult speech and difficulty with the hands that spreads to the arms and shoulders and legs and hips; the onset can be any time from birth to middle age and the progression is slow; inheritance is autosomal dominant
  • narcotic - adj. inducing mental lethargy; inducing stupor or narcosis; of or relating to or designating narcotics;  a drug that produces numbness or stupor; often taken for pleasure or to reduce pain; extensive use can lead to addiction
  • nerve cell -  a cell that is specialized to conduct nerve impulses
  • nerve impulse -  the electrical discharge that travels along a nerve fiber
  • nervous system -  the sensory and control apparatus consisting of a network of nerve cells
  • Neuralgia -  acute spasmodic pain along the course of one or more nerves
  • Neurectomy -  surgical removal of all or part of a nerve
  • Neuritis -  inflammation of a nerve accompanied by pain and sometimes loss of function
  • Neuroblastoma -  malignant tumor containing embryonic nerve cells; usually metastasizes quickly
  • neuroethics -  the study of ethical implications of treatments for neurological diseases
  • Neurofibroma -  tumor of the fibrous covering of a peripheral nerve
  • Neurofibromatosis -  autosomal dominant disease characterized by numerous neurofibromas and by spots on the skin and often by developmental abnormalities
  • Neurohypophysis -  the posterior lobe of the pituitary body; primarily glandular in nature
  • Neuroma -  any tumor derived from cells of the nervous system
  • neuron -  a cell that is specialized to conduct nerve impulses
  • Neuropathy -  any pathology of the peripheral nerves
  • neuropsychology -  the branch of psychology that is concerned with the physiological bases of psychological processes
  • nucleotide -  a phosphoric ester of a nucleoside; the basic structural unit of nucleic acids (DNA or RNA)
  • nurture -  helping someone grow up to be an accepted member of the community; the properties acquired as a consequence of the way you were treated as a child; verb help develop, help grow; provide with nourishment; bring up
  • Nystagmus -  involuntary movements of the eyeballs; its presence or absence is used to diagnose a variety of neurological and visual disorders
  • occipital lobe -  that part of the cerebral cortex in either hemisphere of the brain lying in the back of the head
  • Occiput -  back part of the head or skull
  • Oculopharyngeal muscular dystrophy -  a form of muscular dystrophy that usually begins between early adulthood and middle age and first affects muscles of the eyelid and throat; progresses slowly with swallowing problems common as the disease progresses; inheritance is autosomal dominant
  • Oligodendroglia -  tissue consisting of glial cells with sheetlike processes that form the myelin sheath of nerve fibers
  • opiate -  a narcotic drug that contains opium or an opium derivative
  • optic - adj. relating to or using sight; of or relating to or resembling the eye;  the organ of sight
  • optic nerve -  the cranial nerve that serves the retina
  • Osteoma -  a slow growing benign tumor of consisting of bone tissue; usually on the skull or mandible
  • Osteomyelitis -  an inflammation of bone and bone marrow (usually caused by bacterial infection)
  • oxytocin -  hormone secreted by the posterior pituitary gland (trade name Pitocin); stimulates contractions of the uterus and ejection of milk
  • Papilledema -  swelling of the optic disc (where the optic nerve enters the eyeball); usually associated with an increase in intraocular pressure
  • Paraplegia -  paralysis of the lower half of the body (most often as a result of trauma)
  • parietal lobe -  that part of the cerebral cortex in either hemisphere of the brain lying below the crown of the head
  • Parkinson's disease -  a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system characterized by tremor and impaired muscular coordination
  • perception -  the process of perceiving; knowledge gained by perceiving; a way of conceiving something; becoming aware of something via the senses; the representation of what is perceived; basic component in the formation of a concept
  • Perforated eardrum -  an eardrum with a hole or tear in it; can interfere with normal hearing and cause other ear problems
  • Peritoneal cavity -  the interior of the peritoneum; a potential space between layers of the peritoneum
  • PET - adj. preferred above all others and treated with partiality;  a domesticated animal kept for companionship or amusement; a fit of petulance or sulkiness (especially at what is felt to be a slight); using a computerized radiographic technique to examine the metabolic activity in various tissues (especially in the brain); a special loved one; verb stroke or caress in an erotic manner, as during lovemaking; stroke or caress gently
  • Phenylketonuria -  a genetic disorder of metabolism; lack of the enzyme needed to turn phenylalanine into tyrosine results in an accumulation of phenylalanine in the body fluids which causes various degrees of mental deficiency
  • Pick's disease -  a progressive form of presenile dementia found most often in middle-aged and elderly women and characterized by degeneration of the frontal and temporal lobes with loss of intellectual ability and transitory aphasia
  • Pituitary - adj. of or relating to the pituitary gland; having abnormal size with overgrown extremities resulting from abnormal pituitary secretion;  the master gland of the endocrine system; located at the base of the brain
  • pituitary gland -  the master gland of the endocrine system; located at the base of the brain
  • plasticity -  the property of being physically malleable; the property of something that can be worked or hammered or shaped without breaking
  • Polyneuritis -  inflammation of many or all of the peripheral nerves (as in leprosy)
  • positron emission tomography -  using a computerized radiographic technique to examine the metabolic activity in various tissues (especially in the brain)
  • Potassium bromide -  a white crystalline salt (KBr) used as a sedative and in photography
  • prion -  (microbiology) an infectious protein particle similar to a virus but lacking nucleic acid; thought to be the agent responsible for scrapie and other degenerative diseases of the nervous system
  • Prochlorperazine -  antipsychotic and antiemetic drug used to treat schizophrenia and to combat nausea and vomiting
  • Procrastination -  the act of procrastinating; putting off or delaying or defering an action to a later time; slowness as a consequence of not getting around to it
  • Proprioception -  the ability to sense the position and location and orientation and movement of the body and its parts
  • protein -  any of a large group of nitrogenous organic compounds that are essential constituents of living cells; consist of polymers of amino acids; essential in the diet of animals for growth and for repair of tissues; can be obtained from meat and eggs and milk and legumes
  • protein folding -  the process whereby a protein molecule assumes its intricate three-dimensional shape
  • Psychedelic drug -  a psychoactive drug that induces hallucinations or altered sensory experiences
  • psychiatry -  the branch of medicine dealing with the diagnosis and treatment of mental disorders
  • psychosis -  any severe mental disorder in which contact with reality is lost or highly distorted
  • Psychotic depression -  a state of depression so severe that the person loses contact with reality and suffers a variety of functional impairments
  • PTSD -  an anxiety disorder associated with serious traumatic events and characterized by such symptoms as survivor guilt, reliving the trauma in dreams, numbness and lack of involvement with reality, or recurrent thoughts and images
  • public servant -  someone who holds a government position (either by election or appointment)
  • Pupil -  contractile aperture in the iris of the eye; a young person attending school (up through senior high school); a learner who is enrolled in an educational institution
  • Rachischisis -  a not uncommon congenital defect in which a vertebra is malformed; unless several vertebrae are affected or there is myelomeningocele there are few symptoms; can be diagnosed by amniocentesis
  • Radiologist -  a medical specialist who uses radioactive substances and X-rays in the treatment of disease
  • Radiotherapy -  (medicine) the treatment of disease (especially cancer) by exposure to a radioactive substance
  • rapid eye movement -  a recurring sleep state during which dreaming occurs; a state of rapidly shifting eye movements during sleep
  • Receptive aphasia -  aphasia characterized by fluent but meaningless speech and severe impairment of the ability understand spoken or written words
  • recessive - adj. (of genes) producing its characteristic phenotype only when its allele is identical; of or pertaining to a recession;  an allele that produces its characteristic phenotype only when its paired allele is identical
  • rehabilitation -  the restoration of someone to a useful place in society; the treatment of physical disabilities by massage and electrotherapy and exercises; vindication of a person's character and the re-establishment of that person's reputation; the conversion of wasteland into land suitable for use of habitation or cultivation
  • Rehabilitation -  the restoration of someone to a useful place in society; the treatment of physical disabilities by massage and electrotherapy and exercises; vindication of a person's character and the re-establishment of that person's reputation; the conversion of wasteland into land suitable for use of habitation or cultivation
  • REM -  (Roentgen Equivalent Man) the dosage of ionizing radiation that will cause the same amount of injury to human tissue as 1 roentgen of X-rays; a recurring sleep state during which dreaming occurs; a state of rapidly shifting eye movements during sleep
  • Restless legs syndrome -  feeling of uneasiness and restlessness in the legs after going to bed (sometimes causing insomnia); may be relieved temporarily by walking or moving the legs
  • retina -  the light-sensitive membrane covering the back wall of the eyeball; it is continuous with the optic nerve
  • Retinoblastoma -  malignant ocular tumor of retinal cells; usually occurs before the third year of life; composed of primitive small round retinal cells
  • reuptake -  a process of using up or consuming again
  • reward -  an act performed to strengthen approved behavior; the offer of money for helping to find a criminal or for returning lost property; payment made in return for a service rendered; benefit resulting from some event or action; a recompense for worthy acts or retribution for wrongdoing; verb act or give recompense in recognition of someone's behavior or actions; strengthen and support with rewards; bestow honor or rewards upon
  • ribonucleic acid -  (biochemistry) a long linear polymer of nucleotides found in the nucleus but mainly in the cytoplasm of a cell where it is associated with microsomes; it transmits genetic information from DNA to the cytoplasm and controls certain chemical processes in the cell
  • RNA -  (biochemistry) a long linear polymer of nucleotides found in the nucleus but mainly in the cytoplasm of a cell where it is associated with microsomes; it transmits genetic information from DNA to the cytoplasm and controls certain chemical processes in the cell
  • rod -  any rod-shaped bacterium; a long thin implement made of metal or wood; visual receptor cell sensitive to dim light; a gangster's pistol; a square rod of land; a linear measure of 16.5 feet
  • Salvia divinorum -  an herb from Oaxaca that has a powerful hallucinogenic effect; the active ingredient is salvinorin
  • scan -  the act of scanning; systematic examination of a prescribed region; an image produced by scanning; verb read metrically; make a wide, sweeping search of; move a light beam over; in electronics, to reproduce an image; examine hastily; examine minutely or intensely; conform to a metrical pattern; obtain data from magnetic tapes
  • schizophrenia -  any of several psychotic disorders characterized by distortions of reality and disturbances of thought and language and withdrawal from social contact
  • Scintillating scotoma -  a localized area of diminished vision edged by shimmering colored lights; in many people it indicates the onset of migraine
  • Scotoma -  an isolated area of diminished vision within the visual field
  • Sensory deprivation -  a form of psychological torture inflicted by depriving the victim of all sensory input
  • serotonin -  a neurotransmitter involved in e.g. sleep and depression and memory
  • Shunt -  implant consisting of a tube made of plastic or rubber; for draining fluids within the body; a conductor having low resistance in parallel with another device to divert a fraction of the current; a passage by which a bodily fluid (especially blood) is diverted from one channel to another; verb transfer to another track, of trains; provide with or divert by means of an electrical shunt
  • sleep -  a natural and periodic state of rest during which consciousness of the world is suspended; a torpid state resembling deep sleep; a period of time spent sleeping; euphemisms for death (based on an analogy between lying in a bed and in a tomb); verb be asleep; be able to accommodate for sleeping
  • soma -  personification of a sacred intoxicating drink used in Vedic ritual; leafless East Indian vine; its sour milky juice formerly used to make an intoxicating drink; alternative names for the body of a human being
  • Spina bifida -  a not uncommon congenital defect in which a vertebra is malformed; unless several vertebrae are affected or there is myelomeningocele there are few symptoms; can be diagnosed by amniocentesis
  • spinal cord -  a major part of the central nervous system which conducts sensory and motor nerve impulses to and from the brain; a long tubelike structure extending from the base of the brain through the vertebral canal to the upper lumbar region
  • Spinal fusion -  correction of an unstable part of the spine by joining two or more vertebrae; usually done surgically but sometimes done by traction or immobilization
  • Spondylolisthesis -  a forward dislocation of one vertebra over the one beneath it producing pressure on spinal nerves
  • Status epilepticus -  a condition in which there are continuing attacks of epilepsy without intervals of consciousness; can lead to brain damage and death
  • Stenosis -  abnormal narrowing of a bodily canal or passageway
  • Strabismus -  abnormal alignment of one or both eyes
  • stress -  the relative prominence of a syllable or musical note (especially with regard to stress or pitch); (physics) force that produces strain on a physical body; difficulty that causes worry or emotional tension; special emphasis attached to something; (psychology) a state of mental or emotional strain or suspense; verb put stress on; utter with an accent; to stress, single out as important; test the limits of
  • striatum -  a striped mass of white and grey matter located in front of the thalamus in each cerebral hemisphere; consists of the caudate nucleus and the lenticular nucleus
  • stroke -  a light touch with the hands; a single complete movement; (sports) the act of swinging or striking at a ball with a club or racket or bat or cue or hand; any one of the repeated movements of the limbs and body used for locomotion in swimming or rowing; a mark made by a writing implement (as in cursive writing); a light touch; the oarsman nearest the stern of the shell who sets the pace for the rest of the crew; a sudden loss of consciousness resulting when the rupture or occlusion of a blood vessel leads to oxygen lack in the brain; a punctuation mark (/) used to separate related items of information; the maximum movement available to a pivoted or reciprocating piece by a cam; verb treat gingerly or carefully; strike a ball with a smooth blow; row at a particular rate; touch lightly and with affection, with brushing motions
  • Subacute sclerosing panencephalitis -  a rare chronic progressive encephalitis caused by the measles virus and occurring primarily in children and young adults; death usually occurs within three years; characterized by primary measles infection before the age of two years
  • substantia nigra -  a layer of deeply pigmented grey matter in the midbrain; associated with the striate body; is involved in metabolic disturbances associated with Parkinson's disease and with Huntington's disease
  • subthalamic nucleus -  an oval mass of grey matter located in the caudal part of the subthalamus; associated with the striate body
  • sulcus -  (anatomy) any of the narrow grooves in an organ or tissue especially those that mark the convolutions on the surface of the brain
  • Sydenham's chorea -  chorea occurring chiefly in children and associated with rheumatic fever
  • synapse -  the junction between two neurons (axon-to-dendrite) or between a neuron and a muscle
  • Tabes dorsalis -  syphilis of the spinal cord characterized by degeneration of sensory neurons and stabbing pains in the trunk and legs and unsteady gait and incontinence and impotence
  • Tardive dyskinesia -  involuntary rolling of the tongue and twitching of the face or trunk or limbs; often occurs in patients with Parkinsonism who are treated with phenothiazine
  • telomere -  either (free) end of a eukaryotic chromosome
  • Temporal lobe epilepsy -  epilepsy characterized clinically by impairment of consciousness and amnesia for the episode; often involves purposeful movements of the arms and legs and sometimes hallucinations
  • Tension headache -  a headache located at the back of the head; usually caused by body tension resulting from overwork or psychological stress
  • Teratoma -  a tumor consisting of a mixture of tissues not normally found at that site
  • Thalamus -  large egg-shaped structures of grey matter that form the dorsal subdivision of the diencephalon
  • Thrombus -  a blood clot formed within a blood vessel and remaining attached to its place of origin
  • Tic douloureux -  intense paroxysmal neuralgia along the trigeminal nerve
  • Tourette's syndrome -  neurological disorder characterized by facial grimaces and tics and movements of the upper body and grunts and shouts and coprolalia
  • Transient global amnesia -  memory disorder seen in middle aged and elderly persons; characterized by an episode of amnesia and bewilderment that lasts for several hours; person is otherwise alert and intellectually active
  • Transient ischemic attack -  brief episode in which the brain gets insufficient blood supply; symptoms depend on the site of the blockage
  • Ultrasound -  very high frequency sound; used in ultrasonography; using the reflections of high-frequency sound waves to construct an image of a body organ (a sonogram); commonly used to observe fetal growth or study bodily organs
  • vagus nerve -  a mixed nerve that supplies the pharynx and larynx and lungs and heart and esophagus and stomach and most of the abdominal viscera
  • Valve -  control consisting of a mechanical device for controlling the flow of a fluid; device in a brass wind instrument for varying the length of the air column to alter the pitch of a tone; a structure in a hollow organ (like the heart) with a flap to insure one-way flow of fluid through it
  • Vasopressin -  hormone secreted by the posterior pituitary gland (trade name Pitressin) and also by nerve endings in the hypothalamus; affects blood pressure by stimulating capillary muscles and reduces urine flow by affecting reabsorption of water by kidney tubules
  • Vasopressor -  any agent that produces vasoconstriction and a rise in blood pressure (usually understood as increased arterial pressure)
  • Ventricle -  a chamber of the heart that receives blood from an atrium and pumps it to the arteries; one of four connected cavities in the brain; is continuous with the central canal of the spinal cord and contains cerebrospinal fluid
  • Vermis -  the narrow central part of the cerebellum between the two hemispheres
  • Vertebra -  one of the bony segments of the spinal column
  • Vertigo -  a reeling sensation; a feeling that you are about to fall
  • vestibular system -  organs mediating the labyrinthine sense; concerned with equilibrium
  • Visual agnosia -  inability to recognize or interpret objects in the visual field
  • visual cortex -  the cortical area that receives information from the lateral geniculate body of the thalamus
  • Wernicke's area -  the auditory word center; located in the posterior part of the superior temporal convolution in most people
  • white matter -  whitish nervous tissue of the CNS consisting of neurons and their myelin sheaths
  • Williams syndrome -  a rare congenital disorder associated with deletion of genetic material in chromosome 7; characterized by mental deficiency and some growth deficiency and elfin faces but an overly social personality and a remarkable gift for vocabulary
  • Wilson's disease -  a rare inherited disorder of copper metabolism; copper accumulates in the liver and then in the red blood cells and brain
  • X-ray -  a radiogram made by exposing photographic film to X rays; used in medical diagnosis; electromagnetic radiation of short wavelength produced when high-speed electrons strike a solid target; verb take an x-ray of something or somebody; examine by taking x-rays


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