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Neurological Glossary

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Discrete, rapid conjugate eye movements from one object to another

Saccular aneurysm
Spherical outpouching from one side of an artery that occurs at an arterial bifurcation point and reflects weakness of all layers of the vessel wall

Silicone Ankle Foot Orthosis

Vertical plane passing through the standing body from front to back

Sagittal sulcus (longitudinal fissure)
Long, deep, sagittally oriented cleft that separates the two cerebral hemispheres on the dorsal midline

Salivatory nuclei
Small nuclei in the pontine tegmentum that provide parasympathetic preganglionic innervation to ganglia associated with the lacrimal and salivary glands to control salivation and tearing

Saving Reaction
Physical ability to save oneself when balance is lost

Scanning speech (ataxic dysarthria)
Abnormal staccato-like speech due to a lesion of the cerebellum or cerebellar pathways

Scaphocephaly (dolichocephaly)
Premature closure of the sagittal suture

Developmental birth defect characterized by abnormal slits or clefts in the cerebral hemispheres extending from the cortical surface to the underlying ventricle

Schwann cell
Glial cell of the PNS that forms the insulating myelin sheath of peripheral axons

WHO grade I benign peripheral nerve sheath tumour occurring commonly in the cerebellopontine angle (cranial nerve VII) or in the bony foramina around the spinal cord (spinal nerve root); characterized histologically by Antoni A and Antoni B tissue and Verocay bodies (zones of nuclear palisading)

Scintillating scotoma
Visual migraine aura consisting of shimmering lights followed by a dark spot or partial loss of vision that may move across the visual field

An abnormal sideways curvature/twist of the spine

Island-like gap or blind spot in the visual field

Secondary progressive
Clinical course of multiple sclerosis that initially is relapsing-remitting and then becomes progressive at a variable rate, possibly with an occasional relapse and minor remission

Secondary symptoms
Symptoms referable to secondary effects of a lesion e.g., oedema, blockage of cerebrospinal fluid pathways, stretching of vessels

Discrete event due to sudden, transient, excessive neuronal discharges in the brain

Selective Dorsal Rhizotomy
A neurosurgical technique used in the treatment of spasticity in the lower limbs

Sella turcica
Saddlelike prominence on the upper surface of the sphenoid bone of the skull, situated in the middle cranial fossa and containing the pituitary gland

Referring to part of nervous system which receives and interprets signals through senses, as opposed to motor, which transmits the signals

Sensory trick
Specific trigger a patient uses to relieve dystonia, e.g., touching the outer canthus of the eye to temporarily relieve blepharospasm

Septal nuclei
Neuronal structures in the rostral forebrain adjacent to the septum pellucidum that communicate with the hippocampus, amygdala, hypothalamus,midbrain, habenula, cingulate gyrus, and thalamus

Septum pellucidum
Membrane extending ventrally from the body of the corpus callosum that separates the two lateral ventricles from each other

Setting sun sign
Forced depression of the eyes due to pressure on the dorsal midbrain in the setting of hydrocephalus

Shadow plaque
Foci of myelin preservation at the periphery of active multiple sclerosis plaques thought to represent partial remyelination

Sharp wave
EEG pattern consisting of a transient electrical discharge with a pointed peak and a duration of 70-200 milliseconds that stands out from ongoing background activity; has a strong association with epilepsy

Shy-Drager syndrome
Older term for a variant of multisystems atrophy characterized by preferential degeneration of the intermediolateral cell column of the spinal cord and substantia nigra producing symmetric parkinsonism and autonomic failure

Drooling; increased salivation

Simple tic
Tic involving a limited number of muscles; simple vocal tics are meaningless noises such as grunting or throat clearing; simple motor tics are focal movements such as eye blinking or facial grimacing

Single fibre electromyography
Electrodiagnostic test in which potentials of muscle fibres innervated by a single axon are recorded; normal response is for fibres to be activated with consistent latencies whereas in neuromuscular junction disorders, latencies among muscle fibres in a single motor unit are variable (increased jitter); most sensitive test for myasthenia gravis

Sjogren's syndrome
An autoimmune disorder that prohibits production of tears and saliva

Skew deviation
Hypertropia in which the eyes move vertically in opposite directions due to acquired supranuclear or vestibulo-ocular disruption

Sleep latency
Speed of falling asleep

Sleep paralysis
Temporary (seconds to minutes) inability to move or talk that occurs during sleep-to-wake or wake-to-sleep transitions; one of the symptoms of narcolepsy, but also experienced by some non-narcoleptic individuals

Slow wave sleep
see non-REM sleep

Smooth pursuit
Smooth following eye movements that maintain fixation

Solitary nucleus and tract
Sensory nucleus of the medulla that receives afferent taste information from nerves VII, IX, and X and mediates the gag, cough, carotid sinus, and other visceral reflexes

Cell body, which contains the nucleus and endoplasmic reticulum

Somatosensory evoked potentials (SSEP)
Series of waves that reflect sequential activation of neural structures along the somatosensory pathways following electrical stimulation of peripheral nerves (typically elicited by stimulation of the median nerve at the wrist, the common peroneal nerve at the knee, and/or the posterior tibial nerve at the ankle and recorded from electrodes placed over the scalp, spine, and peripheral nerves)


Somnambulism (sleep walking)
Arising from bed during a period when there is a simultaneous occurrence of incomplete wakefulness and nonREM sleep; typically occurs in the first third of the night during deep sleep

Causing or tending to induce sleep, such as a hypnotic drug

A term with two meanings:
  1. Popularly used to indicate any child or adult suffering from cerebral palsy and diplegia. This is detected by the particular sort of increased resistance to passive movement of the parts of the limb.
  2. Medically speaking it is used to describe a specific type of stiffness commonly seen in the limbs of hemiplegia.

Spastic Cerebral Palsy
The most common form of cerebral palsy where some muscles become very stiff and weak

The state of being spastic

Relationship of one thing to another in space, learned through vision and movement

Spatial Perception
The appreciation of size, distance and the relationship of objects one with another.

Spatial skills
Ability to judge depth, size, distance and position in space

Having both spatial extension and temporal duration, i.e. involving both space and time and the associated perception

Speech and Language Therapy
Rehabilitation specialism directed to the treatment of people with speech and language difficulties, which also covers treatment for swallowing problems.

Speech therapist / speech and language therapist (SALT)
A therapist who specialises in the rehabilitation of people with speech and language difficulties, helping them to improve this and/or to find alternative ways of communicating. They are also expert in swallowing problems.

Social worker (care manager)
Professionally qualified employee of local Social Services Department who gives advice and practical help with social problems. They also assess the eligibility of a person for community care services.

EEG pattern consisting of a transient electrical discharge with a pointed peak and a duration of less than 70 milliseconds that stands out from ongoing background activity; has a strong association with epilepsy

Spike-and-wave complex
Generalized synchronous pattern seen on electroencephalogram, consisting of a sharply contoured fast wave followed by a slow wave; seen in generalized epilepsy

Spina bifida
Failure of bone fusion in the posterior midline of the vertebral column resulting in a bony cleft through which the meninges and varying quantities of spinal cord tissue protrude

Spina bifida occulta
Closed spinal dysraphism characterized by posterior vertebral defect and various overlying cutaneous anomalies (e.g., lipoma, patch of hair); often associated with other spinal cord abnormalities

Spinal dysraphism
Failure of bone fusion in the posterior vertebral column; classified as open (not covered by skin) or closed (covered by skin)

Spinocerebellar ataxia
Group of hereditary neurodegenerative disorders caused by expansion of a CAG triplet repeat and characterized by progressive ataxia and variable other features such as neuropathy and hearing or visual loss

Spinal accessory nerve (cranial nerve XI)
Motor nerve originating partly from the medulla (nucleus ambiguus�innervating laryngeal muscles) and partly from the spinal cord (accessory nucleus in the ventral horn of the cervical cord�innervating the sternocleidomastoid and trapezius muslces); lesion results in weakness in turning the head to the opposite side and elevating the shoulder

Spinocerebellar tract
Fibre tract originating in the spinal cord and carrying proprioceptive input to the ipsilateral cerebellum

Spinothalamic tract
Axonal tract carrying information on pain and temperature that arises from the posterior nerve roots, which ascend a few segments in Lissauer�s tract before synapsing in the substantia gelatinosa, crossing to the opposite side of the cord in the anterior commisure, and traveling in the anterolateral aspect of the cord up to the thalamus and cortex

Thickened posterior border of the corpus callosum

Interchangeable term with braces and orthoses. Used to support or correct upper and lower limbs

Degenerative disease of the vertebral column that can result in spinal cord compression

Spongiform encephalopathy
Progressive neurodegenerative disorder associated with various prion agents that produce spongy changes in the brain (e.g., Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, kuru)

Spreading cortical depression
Brief wave of intense cortical activation followed by a marked decrease in neuronal activity and reduced blood flow that starts in the occipital cortex and spreads anteriorally at a rate of 2-6 mm/min; thought to underline migraine aura

Standing Frame
A piece of equipment to allow a child to be more upright allowing greater freedom of the trunk and arms.

Status epilepticus
Medical emergency defined as more than 30 minutes of either continuous seizure activity or two or more sequential seizures without full recovery of consciousness in between

Status migrainosus
Migraine attack that persists for > 72 hours and often leads to hospitalization

Ability to recognize objects by touch

Repetitive stereotyped movements commonly seen in tardive dyskinesia, tourette syndrome, or autism

Symmetrical tonic neck reaction. Very rare and usually pathological in origin. When the legs are extended the flexor tone in the arms dominate. When the arms are extended the flexor tone in the legs dominate or vice versa for both patterns

Typical distribution on the body where symptoms/signs of peripheral neuropathy are evident (toes to knee and fingers to wrist)

misalignment of the eyes that is either developmental (due to a miscalibration of the binocular vergence system in the cerebral cortex at some point in infancy or childhood) or acquired (due to a palsy of a cranial nerve or extraocular muscle)

Stress incontinence
Partial loss of bladder control, when there is a sudden extra pressure ('stress') on the bladder, for example when coughing, laughing or running

Stria medullaris
White matter tract connecting the anterior hypothalamus and septal nuclei in the medial basal forebrain with the habenula

Stria terminalis
White matter tract containing amygdaloid efferents to the septal nuclei in the medial basal forebrain and nuclei of the anterior hypothalamus

Striate cortex
The part of the occipital lobe of the cerebral cortex that is the primary receptive area for vision

Striatonigral degeneration (SND)
Older term for a variant of multisystems atrophy characterized by degeneration of the striatum and the substantia nigra producing symmetric parkinsonism that does not respond to levodopa or dopamine agonists

Part of the basal ganglia consisting of the caudate and putamen separated by fibres of the anterior limb of the internal capsule

Sudden loss of neurological function caused by a blockage or rupture of a blood vessel to the brain or spinal cord; includes infarction and haemorrhage subtypes

Stroke unit
Hospital facility for the effective management of patients with acute stroke by a multi-disciplinary team of specialists

Condition of unresponsiveness from which the patient can only be aroused by vigorous and repeated stimuli; once stimulus ceases, patient lapses back into unresponsiveness

Developing over days to weeks; suggests an expanding lesion (e.g, tumour or abscess)

Subarachnoid haemorrhage
Bleeding between the brain and one of the covering membranes, often due to a leaking aneurysm

Subarachnoid space
Actual space separating the pia and arachnoid that surround the brain and spinal cord; contains cerebrospinal fluid, arteries and veins, and filaments of arachnoid matter, giving it the appearance of a spider web

Subclinical seizure
Electrographic seizure without clinical manifestations

Portion of the brain immediately below the cerebral cortex; includes corona radiata, internal capsule, basal ganglia, and thalamus, among others

Subcortical leukoencephalopathy
see Binswanger�s disease

Subdural haemorrhage
Collection of blood in the subdural space following trauma to small bridging veins or in elderly patients with cerebral atrophy or those with clotting abnormalities

Subdural space
Potential space between the dura and arachnoid that can be filled with blood, cerebrospinal fluid, or pus

Subhyaloid hemorrhage
Accumulation of blood near the optic disc seen on fundoscopic exam in subarachnoid haemorrhage

Division of the parahippocampal gyrus adjacent to the hippocampal fissure that is the major source of efferent fibres from the hippocampal formation to rostral structures in the basal forebrain

Tendency towards a joint shifting out of position

Substantia gelatinosa
Narrow, dense, vertical band of gray matter forming the dorsal part of the posterior column of the spinal cord and serving to integrate the sensory stimuli that give rise to the sensations of pain and temperature

Substantia nigra
Nucleus in the midbrain tegmentum that is divided into the pars compacta, a region of compactly organized dopaminergic cells that innervate the striatum and cerebral cortex, and the pars reticulata, a region containing loosely organized cells that is a pallidal division of the basal ganglia and sends its output to the thalamus and superior colliculus

Subthalamic nucleus (subthalamus)
Nucleus in the ventral diencephalon that modulates the output of the basal ganglia from the internal segment of the globus pallidus to the thalamus

Groove in the cerebral cortex separating two gyri

Nearer the head

Superior cerebellar peduncle (brachium conjunctivum)
Principle efferent fibre bundle from the cerebellum; fibres decussate in the midbrain and end primarily in the red nucleus and dorsal thalamus; lesions of the caudal SCP before the decussation result in ipsilateral deficits in motor coordination whereas lesions rostral to the decussation result in contralateral deficits; afferent fibers from the ventral spinocerebellar tract travel in the SCP to bring proprioceptive information from the lower body to the cerebellum

Superior colliculus
Paired structures on the dorsal surface of the rostral midbrain that receive unconscious visual input directly from the retina and help orient the head and eyes to all types of sensory stimuli

Superior sagittal sinus
Venous structure occupying the convex margin of the falx cerebri and draining the upper part of the cerebral hemispheres

Lying on back

Central connections rostral to the cranial nerve nuclei

above the sella turcica

Above the tentorium cerebelli, i.e., cerebral cortex, thalamus, and basal ganglia

Junction between two bones of the skull: coronal separates the 2 frontal bones from the parietal bones; metopic separates the frontal bones; sagittal separates the 2 parietal bones; lambdoid separates the occipital bone from the 2 parietal bones

Sylvian fissure (lateral fissure or lateral sulcus)
Prominent long, deep fissure on the lateral surface of the cerebral hemisphere that divides the posterior frontal and anterior parietal lobes from the superior temporal lobe

Sympathetic nervous system
Part of the autonomic nervous system concerned with preparing the body for fear, fight, or flight; preganglionic fibers arise from the lateral horns of the spinal segments T1-L2

Symptomatic epilepsy
Epilepsy that is due to a known cause (e.g., tumour)

Temporary loss of consciousness due to a lack of blood flow to the brain

Syndrome of inappropriate ADH secretion (SIADH)
Disorder of osmoregulation involving excessive release of arginine vasopressin (antidiuretic hormone), which causes excessive water retention by the kidney, leading to a dilutional hyponatremia; occurs in a wide range of neurological disorders and other medical conditions

Condition associated with involuntary perceptual experiences that are elicited by stimuli that would not be expected to elicit such a response�a crossing of sensory modalities, e.g., experiencing colours in response to numbers, letters, and words

Group of neurodegenerative diseases characterized by neuronal or glial inclusions composed of alpha-synuclein; includes idiopathic Parkinson disease and diffuse Lewy body disease

Central cavitation (cystic lesion) within the spinal cord (syringomyelia) that extends up to the medulla and pons

Central cavitation (cystic lesion) of the spinal cord, usually in the cervical region, producing a distinctive cape-like distribution of spinothalamic tract sensory loss while leaving the dorsal columns relatively intact

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