Disorders of the Brain and Spinal Cord

The brain and spinal cord process all incoming information from different sense organs throughout the body and coordinate appropriate responses. Both the brain and the spinal cord are connected to other parts of the body by the peripheral nerves. The brain and spinal cord are protected by overlying membranes as well as by the skull and the flexible, bony vertebral column.

The first articles in this section cover head injuries and different states of unconsciousness, such as coma. Spinal injuries, often caused by whiplash in road accidents, are described next.

Disorders associated with abnormal brain function, such as epilepsy and narcolepsy, which causes an irresistible tendency to sleep are then discussed. The next articles focus on infectious disorders affecting the brain, such as meningitis, in which the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord are inflamed, and viral encephalitis, in which the brain becomes inflamed. Cancerous and noncancerous brain tumours are then described.

Different types of stroke and brain haemorrhages, all of which may affect speech, mobility, or mental ability, are discussed next. The final articles in this section deal with degenerative disorders, such as types of dementia and motor neuron disease.

General disorders that affect the brain, such as headache, are discussed elsewhere (see General nervous system disorders).

Key anatomy

For more information on the structure and function of the peripheral nervous system.

Head Injuries


Persistent Vegetative State

Brain Death

Spinal Injuries




Viral Encephalitis

Brain Abscess

Brain Tumours

Transient Ischaemic Attacks


Subarachnoid Haemorrhage

Subdural Haemorrhage


Alzheimer’s Disease

Multi-infarct Dementia

Wernicke–Korsakoff Syndrome

Huntington’s Disease

Parkinson’s Disease and Parkinsonism

Creutzfeldt–Jakob Disease

Motor Neuron Disease

Multiple Sclerosis

From the 2010 revision of the Complete Home Medical Guide © Dorling Kindersley Limited.

The subjects, conditions and treatments covered in this encyclopaedia are for information only and may not be covered by your insurance product should you make a claim.

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