Neurological Physio Logo Information Guide and Resource Centre

Neurological Glossary

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Pacinian corpuscle
Largest of the skin receptors located deep in the dermis and responsible for sensation of vibration and deep pressure

A doctor who specialises in the care of children and in their disorders and diseases.

Paralysis of a muscle group

Swelling of nerve head usually but not always due to increased ICP

Parachute reflex
Protective reflex of normal infants (present by 7-9 months) in which both arms go out in front in response to the head being held down and pointed toward the floor

Loss of motor function in a body part

Paramedian pontine reticular formation (PPRF)
Collection of premotor neurons located in or near the abducens nucleus that drive horizontal gaze when excited by the cerebral cortex

Adjacent to the meninges; includes nasal cavity, middle ear, paranasal sinuses, mastoid, infratemporal fossa, and pterygopalatine fossa

Paraphasia speech error characterized by substitutions of letters (e.g., "bree" for "tree") or words (e.g., "house" for "tree")

Impairment of legs only

Sagittal section that is lateral to the midline

Disorder in which abnormal behavior intrudes into the sleep process; includes somnambulism, night terrors, and bruxism

Parasympathetic nervous system
Part of the autonomic nervous system concerned with conservation and restoration of energy; its preganglionic fibres arise from the motor nuclei of cranial nerves III, VII, IX and X in the brainstem and from the second, third and fourth sacral segments of the spinal cord

Paratonia (gegenhalten)
Increased muscle tone that increases in proportion to the speed and strength with which the examiner tries to move the joint; indicative of extensive bihemispheric or bifrontal dysfunction


Reduced ability to activate motor neurons; weakness

Skin sensation, such as burning, prickling, itching, or tingling, with no apparent physical cause

Parinaud�s syndrome (dorsal midbrain syndrome)
Syndrome characterized by a supranuclear palsy of vertical conjugate movements, convergence-retraction nystagmus, and light-near dissociation of the pupillary reflex; eyes may be forced downward; due to lesion of the dorsal midbrain including pressure on the it from hydrocephalus or increased intracranial pressure

Parkinson disease
Neurodegenerative disease characterized by resting tremor, bradykinesia/akinesia, rigidity, and postural instability due to loss of cells in the substantia nigra with striatal dopamine deficiency and residual Lewy bodies

Complex of symptoms including resting tremor, bradykinesia/akinesia, rigidity, and postural instability that are due to striatal dopamine deficiency or reduced function; may be seen in a variety of neurodegenerative disorders including idiopathic Parkinson disease, Lewy body dementia, corticobasal degeneration, progressive supranuclear palsy, multisystems atrophy

Parkinson plus syndromes
Primary neurodegenerative disorders associated with complex clinical presentations including parkinsonism that reflect degeneration in various neuronal systems in addition to the substantia nigra; parkinsonian features are characterized by symmetry of signs, truncal>appendicular signs, and lack of response to levodopa or dopamine agonists

Partial (focal) seizure
Seizure that starts in a single cortical region

Participation restrictions
Problems an individual may experience in their own involvement in life situations (e.g., inability to return to work).

Area surrounding the dense core of irreversibly damaged cells that has preserved ionic homeostasis and reduced neuronal electrical activity but that is capable of recovery

Pelvic Tilt
Position of pelvis � which can be normal or abnormal

Awareness and understanding of one's environment (e.g. awareness of touch, sights, sounds)

Perceptual neglect
Inability to distribute spatial attention to objects in the visual field

Perceptual skills
Ability to receive and distinguish information through the prime senses of vision, touch, taste, hearing and smell.

Periaqueductal gray
Tegmental gray matter surrounding the cerebral aqueduct within the midbrain that is important in the processing of pain

Visual field testing designed to determine the sensitivity of specific locations of peripheral and central vision

Connective tissue sheath surrounding a bundle of nerve fibers

Periodic limb movement disorder
Sleep disorder characterized by repetitive stereotyped movements during sleep, most commonly an extension of the big toe and dorsiflexion of the ankle; often associated with a partial arousal or awakening of which the patient is typically unaware

Peripheral nerve block injections
Injection of local anaesthetic in the vicinity of a peripheral nerve to anaesthetize the nerve's area of innervation and prevent pain signals from reaching the brain.

Peripheral nervous system
Nerve cell body, spinal nerve root, plexus, peripheral nerve, neuromuscular junction, and muscle

A persisting tendency to repeat actions or phrases of sentence. An ability to stop one activity and transfer to another.

Perisylvian plexus
Referring to structures around the Sylvian fissure; includes Wernicke's area in auditory association cortex and Broca's area in front of motor cortex

Connective tissue sheath surrounding a bundle of muscle fibres

Petit mal seizure
see absence seizure

Abnormal intolerance to sound that commonly occurs in migraine and other headaches

Abnormal intolerance to light, usually associated with eye pain; characteristic of meningeal irritation, migraine, optic nerve disease, and ocular or retinal disorders

Physiologic tremor
Subtle low amplitude, high frequency tremor most easily observed in the hands that is present in healthy persons and most prominent during posture and action

A therapist who specialises in physical methods of treatment to promote healing and return to health and optimal functioning

Innermost layer of the meninges that is intimately applied to the surface of the brain parenchyma and spinal cord and separated from the arachnoid by the subarachnoid space

Pick�s disease
Form of frontotemporal dementia characterized by a slowly progressive deterioration of social skills and changes in personality in addition to impairment of intellect, memory, and language; defined pathologically by Pick bodies (rounded tau-posiotive inclusions similar to neurofibrillary tangles) and Pick cells (swollen or ballooned neurons) in a predominantly frontal location

Piedro Boots
Specialised footwear

Pincer grasp
Finger-thumb opposition

Midline body attached to the posterior part of the third ventricle and lying between the superior colliculi, below the splenium of the corpus callosum; major site of melatonin biosynthesis

Pituitary apoplexy
Spontaneous hemorrhagic infarction of a typically large and nonfunctioning pituitary adenoma presenting with headache, nausea and vomiting, cranial nerve II, III, IV, or VI palsies, altered mental status, and hypopituitarism

Pituitary gland (hypophysis)
Endocrine organ lying ventral to the hypothalamus and optic chiasm; includes an anterior glandular lobe made up of hormone-secreting cells and a posterior neural lobe containing the terminals of neuropeptide-secreting, hypothalamic neurons

Placing (stepping) response
Normal neonatal reflex consisting of elevating the foot and moving it forward when its dorsal surface is touched; the infant will appear to attempt to stand or walk

Plantar response
Superficial (cutaneous) reflex elicited by applying a stimulus to the skin of the foot or leg; flexion (curling down) of all toes (�downgoing toe�) is a normal response, while extension of the great toe (�upgoing toe�) with fanning of the other toes is abnormal and signifies a lesion of the corticospinal tract. Many methods of eliciting the plantar reflex have been described, including the following:

Inability to activate any motor neurons; paralysis

Inflammatory muscle disease associated with primarily proximal limb weakness; considered to be an autoimmune disease of disordered cellular immunity and often associated with a specific collagen-vascular disease

Continuous and simultaneous recording of multiple physiological variables during sleep

Middle aspect of the brainstem, lying between the midbrain rostrally and the medulla caudally

Plaster of Paris casts

Cerebral hemispheric cyst that is usually the remnant of a destructive lesion (e.g., stroke or infection) or is due to abnormal brain development

Positive sharp wave
Spontaneous muscle activity seen on electromyography in association with denervation or irritable myopathy consisting of long action potentials with initial positive (down) wave followed by wide negative (up) wave

Positive symptom
Exaggeration of a physiological phenomenon; implies abnormal excessive (irritative�) discharges in gray matter or (e.g., seizure or hemifacial spasm) or chronic imbalance in complex integrated motor pathways (e.g., chorea)

Positron Emission Tomography (PET)
A sensitive medical imaging technique in which a pharmaceutical, marked or "labelled" with a radioactive substance, is injected into the patient to show how well cells are functioning. Useful for diagnosing brain disease, because brain tumours, strokes, and neuron-damaging diseases which cause dementia (such as Alzheimer's disease) all cause great changes in brain metabolism, which in turn causes easily detectable changes in PET scans.

Period following a migraine during which a person has impaired concentration, fatigue, or irritability

Nearer the back of the body

Posterior cerebral artery
Paired arteries that arise from the top of the basilar artery; supply blood to the posterior areas of the brain, including the medial occipital lobes (visual cortex), the inferior temporal lobes, and thalamus

Posterior commissure
One of the three major groups of commissural fibres that crosses the midline of the epithalamus just dorsal to the point where the cerebral aqueduct opens into the third ventricle

Posterior communicating artery
Branch of the internal carotid artery that joins the middle cerebral artery (anterior circulation) to the posterior cerebral artery (posterior circulation); supplies thalamus, hypothalamus, optic chiasm, and mamillary bodies

Posterior cord syndrome
Spinal cord injury syndrome associated with damage to the posterior portion of the spinal cord resulting in bilateral loss of vibration /proprioception +/- bilateral weakness below the level of the lesion

Posterior fossa
Brainstem and cerebellum

Posterior horn (dorsal horn)
Gray matter in the back of the spinal cord that receives sensory information from the body through the dorsal root ganglia

Post-herpetic neuralgia
Condition following an acute varicella zoster infection (shingles) characterized by persistent pain (3 or more months) in the dermatomal distribution of the previous zoster rash

Postural instability
Loss of ability to make postural adjustments in response to perturbations, i.e., defect in righting reflex; common in Parkinson disease

Postural tremor
Tremor that occurs with the maintenance of a posture or position against gravity

Ability to stand upright automatically against gravity; controlled by the vestibulospinal, reticulospinal, and tectospinal pathways

Pott�s disease
Tuberculous involvement of the vertebral column with vertebral collapse

Past Medical History

Profound and Multiple Learning Difficulties

Ability to plan, time, sequence, and spatially organize skilled movements

Prefrontal cortex
Cortical region of the frontal lobe lying anterior to primary and premotor cortex; mediates various executive functions, with the dorsolateral division involved in working memory processes, planning, and decision making, and the ventromedial division involved in emotion and the organization of appropriate social behaviour

Premotor cortex
Cortical region (Brodmann's area 6) in the posterior frontal lobe anterior to the primary motor cortex involved in planning or programming of voluntary movements

Primary progressive
Clinical course of multiple sclerosis characterized from the beginning by progressive disease, with no plateaus or remissions, or an occasional plateau and very short-lived, minor improvements

Primary progressive aphasia
Progressive form of dementia characterized by global loss of language abilities and initial preservation of other cognitive functions; pathologically, there may be spongiform changes in the frontal and temporal lobes rather than Alzheimer-like changes

Primitive neuroepithelial tumor (PNET)
Tumor histologically similar to the medulloblastoma but located outside the posterior fossa

Proteinacious infectious agent responsible for various fatal brain diseases classified as spongiform encephalopathy

Premonitory phenomena occurring hours to days before headache onset in migraine consisting of psychological, neurological, or constitutional symptoms

Assessment of the future course and expected outcome of a patient's illness

Progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML)
Fatal demyelinating CNS disease of immunocompromised patients caused by reactivation of the JC papovavirus

Progressive supranuclear palsy (Steele-Richardson-Olszewski syndrome)
Parkinson plus syndrome characterized by predominantly axial rigidity, akinesia, supranuclear ophthalmoplegia (impairment of voluntary vertical gaze�downward more than upward), and pseudobulbar palsy

Passive range of Movement

Lying on tummy

Joint position sense

Proptosis (exophthalmos)
Abnormal protrusion of the eyeball

see forebrain

Emotional content of language

Involuntary slow, writhing movements of a limb (usually the hand or fingers) occurring when the eyes are closed due to impaired proprioception. Unlike in athetosis, the movements are not present when the eyes are open because visual feedback provides the necessary information to know where the limb is in space

Pseudobulbar affect
Condition in which episodes of laughing and/or crying occur with no apparent precipitating event

Pseudobulbar palsy
Syndrome characterized by dysarthria, dysphagia, dysphonia, impairment of voluntary movements of tongue and facial muscles, and emotional lability; caused by diseases such as multiple sclerosis, motor neuron disease, and stroke that affect the motor fibers traveling from the cerebral cortex to the lower brainstem (i.e., corticobulbar tracts)

Spoke-wheel arrangement of cells with tapered cellular processes surrounding a blood vessel, creating a perivascular nuclear free zone; seen in most ependymomas and less commonly in other CNS tumors

A person qualified in the scientific study of the mind. A Clinical Psychologist is trained in the assessment and treatment of people with illness or impairment.

Eyelid droopiness

Pupillary light response
Contraction of the pupil on exposure of the retina to light; dependent on proper functioning of the optic and oculomotor nerves

Largest and most lateral component of the basal ganglia

Prominent column of white matter on the ventromedial margin of the medulla containing axons of the corticospinal tract

Pyramidal tract
see corticospinal tract

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