KeywordsMultiple Sclerosis Stressful Life Event Spina Bifida Vagal Nerve Bodily Response
Neurological refers to any process or disorder involving the nervous system or its components. The nervous system includes the central and peripheral nervous systems (CNS and PNS, respectively). These systems are composed of neuronal fibers (axons and dendrites) which transmit neurological information to and from neurons, cell bodies that process neurological information, as well as other types of cells (e.g., astrocytes, microglia). The CNS, the “headquarters” of the body, processes and regulates multiple bodily responses and psychological responses to external and internal stimuli. These numerous neurological processes are carried out by various levels of the CNS including the brain stem (basic vital signs), the limbic system (memory, sensory, autonomic, immune, hormonal, and emotional processes), and the cortex (executive function and information processing, overall modulation of multiple systems). Neurological disorders are a heterogeneous group of disorders that involve abnormal functioning of the nervous system, PNS or CNS, or both. These could be manifested motorically (as in Parkinson’s disease and stroke), behaviorally (as in Alzheimer’s disease), or in neurophysiological tests (as in epilepsy or stroke). Neurological diseases caused by genetic mutations are often congenital (e.g., congenital insensitivity to pain with anhidrosis), developmental disorders of the nervous system (e.g., spina bifida), neurodegenerative diseases (e.g., Alzheimer’s disease), diseases due to cerebral ischemia (e.g., stroke), injuries to the PNS or CNS, seizures (e.g., epilepsy), cancers (e.g., glioma), and infections (e.g., meningitis). These disorders are treated by neurologists, physicians who specialize in neurological disorders and their etiology and treatment. A major consequence of neurological disorders is their psychosocial impact, both on the patient and on his or her social environment. Often, the social stigma associated with certain neurological problems is quite severe (de Boer 2010) and has the potential to isolate patients. This is of great importance for behavior medicine and includes the assessment of the health-related quality of life affected by such conditions. Some studies have also found that stressful life events precede and predict prognosis in neurological diseases such as in multiple sclerosis (Mitsonis et al. 2008). The accumulating evidence linking neuroimmune processes (e.g., inflammation, vagal nerve modulation) to stress and to peripheral and central pathways (Tracey 2009) and to neurological diseases reveals the importance of the interdisciplinary nature of the neurologist’s work, encompassing basic biology, medicine, and behavioral sciences.