What is Neurology?
Neurology is a medical specialty that focuses on the diagnosis, treatment, and management of disorders and conditions affecting the nervous system. This includes the brain, spinal cord, nerves, and muscles, as well as their blood vessels and coverings.
Neurologists are physicians who specialize in this field and are trained to diagnose and treat a wide range of neurological conditions, such as strokes, seizures, Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, multiple sclerosis, and migraine headaches. They use a variety of techniques to evaluate and manage neurological conditions, including medical history review, neurological examination, imaging tests, laboratory tests, and other specialized procedures. (1,2)
Overview and Definition
Neurology is a medical field focused on diagnosing and treating various types of illnesses and conditions that affect the brain, spinal cord, and peripheral nerves. Neuroscience, the study of the nervous system, plays an important role in the practice of neurology. A neurologist is a specialized doctor who can diagnose and treat neurological disorders, including stroke, Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, migraine, and Alzheimer's disease. Neurologists may also engage in clinical research, clinical trials, and basic or translational research. Although neurology is not a surgical field, neurosurgery is its surgical counterpart. (3)
Education and Training
Education and training in neurology is a rigorous process that requires many years of study and practice. To become a neurologist in the United States, individuals must complete an extensive educational program that typically takes eight to ten years to complete.
The first step in this process is to earn a Bachelor's degree in a relevant field, such as biology, chemistry, or neuroscience. After completing their undergraduate degree, aspiring neurologists must then attend medical school and obtain a Doctor of Medicine (MD) degree.
Following medical school, individuals must then complete a five-year residency program in neurology, which includes a year of training in internal medicine. During their residency, neurology residents receive extensive training in the diagnosis and treatment of neurological conditions, as well as in the use of specialized technologies and tools, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and electroencephalography (EEG).
After completing their residency program, some neurologists choose to pursue additional fellowship training in a specific subspecialty of neurology, such as neurocritical care, neuromuscular disorders, or pediatric neurology. Fellowships typically last for one to two years and provide additional hands-on training and experience in a specific area of focus.
Throughout their training, neurologists also engage in continuing education and professional development activities to stay up-to-date with the latest advances and techniques in the field of neurology.
Overall, the education and training required to become a neurologist is extensive and demanding, but it is essential for ensuring that neurologists have the knowledge, skills, and experience necessary to provide the highest level of care to their patients. (4,5)
Practicing as a Neurologists
A neurologist is a doctor who specializes in diagnosing, treating, and managing disorders of the brain and nervous system, including the brain, spinal cord, and nerves. They have extensive knowledge of the anatomy, function, and conditions that affect the nervous system, which controls everything from patients movements to their heart rate. Pediatric neurologists are specialists who work with children, from newborns to adolescents, to diagnose and treat disorders of the brain and nervous system that are similar to those seen in adults, as well as inherited and developmental conditions.
When seeing a patient, neurologists will ask about their medical history, family history, and medication history, as well as conduct a neurologic examination, including tests of coordination, balance, reflexes, muscle strength, mental health, vision, hearing, speech, and sensation. They may also order blood, urine, or other fluid tests to help understand the severity of the condition or check medication levels, as well as genetic testing to identify inherited disorders. Imaging studies may also be ordered to aid in diagnosis.
Neurologists treat patients using medications, physical therapy, and other approaches. (6)