The term “neuroscience” refers to the scientific study of the nervous system. The word is derived from a combination of the words “neuron” meaning “nerve” and “science”.
Neuroscience concerns all scientific aspects of the nervous system including molecular, cellular, functional, and structural elements as well as the evolutionary, medical and computational aspects. Some examples of the principal areas studied are:
Neuronal signalling and axonal connectivity patterns
Neuronal development and biological function
Neural circuit formation and functional role in reflexes, sense, memory, learning, and emotional response
Cognitive neuroscience addressing psychological functions related to neural circuits
Brain imaging in diagnosis of disease
Neuroscientists explore all elements of the nervous system to understand how it is structured, how it functions, how it forms, how it malfunctions and how it can be altered.
The nervous system is an assembly of interconnected neurons that communicate with each other and other cells through specialized synaptic junctions where neurons project long filaments called axons that can reach and relay signals to distant parts of the body that influence neuronal, muscular and glandular activity at their end points.
Neuroscientists are essentially basic science researchers who usually possess a doctoral degree in neuroscience or a related field. They may then work in post doctoral research or go on to become a medical doctor and later specialize in neuroscience.
Neuroscientists often contribute to understanding the genetic basis of many neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease and identify strategies for cure and management. Neuroscientists may also be involved in research into mental disorders such as schizophrenia or behavioural disorders.
The term “neurosurgery” is short for neurological surgery, a discipline that is concerned with the diagnosis and treatment of nervous system disorders. Neurosurgery is a sister discipline to neuromedicine, which involves the diagnosis and treatment of neurological disorders and complications using medications and non-surgical methods. In most patients, neurologists (who deal with neuromedicine) work alongside neurosurgeons.
Neurosurgeons operate on the brain, spine, or nerves of the limbs or extremities. They treat patients of all ages, ranging from newborns with congenital neurological abnormalities (birth defects) through to elderly individuals who may have suffered a stroke, for example. Neurosurgeons are also involved in the treatment of nerve injuries, neuroblastoma, infections of the central nervous system and neurodegenerative diseases.
A major part of diagnosing and evaluating patients in neurology involves the use of imaging studies such as computed tomography (CT) scans, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans and angiograms.
Neurosurgery is one of the more recent surgical disciplines to develop, originally gaining recognition in the early 1900s. However, it is now one of the most cutting edge medical disciplines in the world of science and medicine and involves the use of some of the most advanced technologies currently available.
According to the American Board of Neurological Surgery, to qualify as a neurosurgeon, a person must complete medical school as well as a neurosurgical residency training that is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) in the United States. The neurologist also needs to have completed mandatory training in general surgery and critical care.
There are several sub-specialities that a neurologist can choose to practice and examples include pediatric neurosurgery, interventional neuroradiology, spine surgery, neurovascular surgery, neuro-oncology, pain management, and nerve trauma.
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