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UK-NOTPR-1010 | April 2022




Understanding Neurological Disorders

Neurological disorders are diseases of the central and peripheral nervous system. In other words, the brain, spinal cord, nerves and muscles, which regulate and coordinate body activities.

Dementia isn’t a single disease; it is a term used to describe the symptoms that occur when there’s a decline in brain function.1


There are a number of different causes of dementia, of which the most common is Alzheimer’s disease, thought to be linked with the build-up of abnormal ‘amyloid plaques’ and ‘tau tangles’ in the brain.1 Certain other types of dementia also have an abnormal build-up of tau protein in the brain; as a group, these are termed ‘tauopathies’.2


In the early stages, people with Alzheimer’s disease suffer from symptoms such as worsening memory. At first, they may notice things like losing or misplacing objects more often or forgetting names and places. They may also worsen in their ability to make judgements, to manage their affairs, and to plan things. There are often signs of mood changes too, such as an increase in anxiety or agitation and periods of confusion.3 As the disease progresses, sufferers with the condition may find it increasingly difficult to recognise their own family members and friends and often have problems controlling their mood, with a tendency to become irritable or agitated.3 The symptoms typically emerge and worsen over a period of years.3 Alzheimer’s disease most commonly affects people over the age of 65.4


There’s currently no cure for Alzheimer’s disease but there are treatments available that can help to relieve some of the symptoms. Making changes to a person’s home environment can sometimes help with making it easier to move around and remember daily tasks.4


People with dementia may ultimately become dependent on a caregiver.3


Gain a deeper understanding of Alzheimer’s disease here.

Epilepsy is a brain disorder in which people experience ‘seizures’ – sudden surges of electrical activity in the brain.5 During a seizure, people can experience changes in awareness and how they sense things, from ‘spacing out’ to completely losing consciousness. Physical symptoms can also be experienced, including feelings of stiffness, tremors, and convulsions.5 Depending on the type, a seizure can last from a few seconds to several minutes.6


There are many known causes of seizure, such as a stroke and head injuries, though in most cases no cause can be identified.7 Lennox–Gastaut syndrome is a rare but severe type of epilepsy that emerges during infancy or early childhood.8 Typically, the seizures cause the sufferer to either stiffen or go limp.8 Dravet syndrome is a rare type of childhood epilepsy that typically starts within the first year of life. Seizures are most often associated with a high temperature and usually involve only one side of the body, although both sides of the body may also be involved.9


Epilepsy is usually a lifelong condition that can affect a person’s safety as well as their ability to function at work or school. However, most people can live normal lives providing their seizures are well controlled.5


Gain a deeper understanding of Lennox–Gastaut syndrome here.

Movement disorders is a term referring to a group of neurological conditions associated with abnormal and increased movements. The movements may be voluntary or involuntary.10 Broadly, movement disorders can be split into those where the affected person moves too much (e.g., Tourette’s syndrome or Huntington’s disease), and those where the affected person moves too little (e.g., Parkinson’s disease or multiple system atrophy).10


Tourette’s syndrome is associated with involuntary movements and vocal sounds, known as ‘tics’, which usually emerge during childhood.11 Huntington’s disease is an inherited, progressive brain disease that usually emerges during middle age.12 It causes involuntary jerky movements of the body, as well as problems with thinking and memory, and changes in behaviour and personality.12 Parkinson’s disease is a progressive disease that causes tremor, slowness of movement, stiffness, and sometimes balance problems, as well as symptoms that are not related to movement (e.g. mental health issues and problems with sleep and memory).13 Multiple system atrophy has similar movement symptoms to Parkinson’s disease, but it is rarer, progresses more rapidly, is harder to diagnose, and has fewer treatment options.14


Movement disorders are a source of stigma and can interfere with daily life. Whereas Tourette’s syndrome may improve with age,11 people with a progressive brain disease can ultimately become completely dependent on a caregiver.1,12-13


Gain a deeper understanding of Tourette’s syndrome here and Parkinson’s disease here.

People with sleep disorders endure changes in their sleep. Consequently, they feel sleepy during the day and can struggle to carry out normal daily activities, such as driving.15


There are many types of sleep disorder, some of which are relatively common, such as insomnia and breathing disorders like sleep apnea.15 Other sleep disorders are rare, such as narcolepsy.16 Sleep disorders can also be accompanied by psychological conditions such as depression and anxiety.17 In many cases, sleep disorders are a sign or consequence of some other medical condition or mental disorder. For example, excessive daytime sleepiness is a common symptom of degenerative brain disorders such as Parkinson’s disease18 or Alzheimer’s disease.3


Narcolepsy is a particularly burdensome sleep disorder. People with narcolepsy are excessively sleepy during the day and need regular naps.16 Many people with the disorder also experience sudden muscle weakness, which can make them fall over. Not only can narcolepsy have a significant impact on daily life, but activities such as driving become much more dangerous and emotionally it can be very tough.16


Gain a deeper understanding of narcolepsy here.

  1. Causes of Dementia: NHS Guide. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/dementia/causes/ [Accessed March 2022]
  2. Kovacs GG. Handb Clin Neurol. 2017;145:355-368. 
  3. Alzheimer's disease symptoms: NHS Guide. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/alzheimers-disease/symptoms/ [Accessed March 2022]
  4. Alzheimer's disease overview: NHS Guide. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/alzheimers-disease/ [Accessed March 2022]
  5. Epilepsy overview: NHS Guide. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/epilepsy/ [Accessed March 2022]
  6. Epilepsy symptoms: NHS Guide. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/epilepsy/symptoms/ [Accessed March 2022]
  7. Seizures: Mayo Clinic Guide. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/seizure/symptoms-causes/syc-20365711 [Accessed March 2022]
  8. National Organisation for Rare Disorders: Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome. https://rarediseases.org/rare-diseases/lennox-gastaut-syndrome/ [Accessed March 2022]
  9. Epilepsy Action: Dravet Syndrome. https://www.epilepsy.org.uk/info/syndromes/dravet-syndrome [Accessed March 2022]
  10. Movement Disorders: Mayo Clinic Guide. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/movement-disorders/symptoms-causes/syc-20363893 [Accessed March 2022]
  11. Tourette's syndrome overview: NHS Guide. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/tourettes-syndrome/ [Accessed March 2022]
  12. Huntingdon's disease overview: NHS Guide. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/huntingtons-disease/ [Accessed March 2022]
  13. Parkinson's disease overview: NHS Guide. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/parkinsons-disease/ [Accessed March 2022]
  14. Multiple system atrophy: NHS Guide. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/multiple-system-atrophy/ [Accessed March 2022]
  15. Sleep Disorders: Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/sleep-disorders/symptoms-causes/syc-20354018 [Accessed March 2022]
  16. Narcolepsy overview: NHS Guide. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/narcolepsy/ [Accessed March 2022]
  17. Insomnia Overview: NHS Guide. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/insomnia/ [Accessed March 2022]
  18. Parkinson’s disease symptoms: NHS Guide. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/parkinsons-disease/symptoms/ [Accessed March 2022]

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