What Kinds of Neurology Doctors Are There?
Neurology is a medical specialty that focuses on diagnosing and treating diseases and disorders of the nervous system, including the central nervous system (brain) and peripheral nervous system (spinal cord and the nerves of the body). Physicians who specialize in neurology go through years of rigorous training in order to be able to recognize and address nervous system disorders.
There are several types of neurology doctors:
- Neurologists focus on diagnosing and treating diseases, disorders, and injuries of the brain and nervous system
- Neurosurgeons perform delicate interventional procedures on the brain and nerves.
- Neuro-psychiatrists specialize in psychological and psychiatric symptoms, such as sudden impulsiveness or declining memory, that relate to physiological processes in the brain.
Neurologists: Neurology Doctors Who Are Expert Diagnosticians
A neurologist is specially trained to identify, diagnose, recognize, and treat disorders of the nervous system. There are many, many things that can go wrong with the brain and the peripheral nervous system, some of which are quite rare, specific, or obscure. Neurology is widely considered to be one of the most challenging medical subspecialties, albeit one of the most fascinating.
In a typical exam, a neurologist will generally give a patient an exam that assesses their mental status, cranial nerve functions, coordination, reflexes, and sensation. This information can help determine the existence, location, and nature of a deficit related to the nervous system. A neurologist may also order neuroimaging tests, such as EEG, MRI, or CAT scans, to further pinpoint and confirm nervous system disorders and dysfunctions.
Some of the conditions commonly treated by a neurologist include:
- Strokes and damage resulting from strokes
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Parkinson’s disease
- Huntington’s disease
- Cerebral palsy
- Multiple sclerosis
- Traumatic brain injury
- Epilepsy and seizure disorders
- Migraine headaches
- Assessing the prognosis and state of consciousness in comatose or vegetative patients, including consulting with family members in regards to the decision of whether to continue life support.
After completing four years of medical school, neurologists complete an additional four years of residency, plus two to three years of fellowship training.
Neurosurgeons: Neurology Doctors Who Perform Brain Surgery
Neurosurgeons are neurology doctors who perform surgical procedures on the brain, spinal cord, and nerves. After medical school, they complete a year of internship and six years of residency, often followed by additional fellowship training for a subspecialty, such as pediatric neurosurgery or neuro-oncology (surgical treatment of brain cancers).
In diagnosing and treating neurological conditions, neurosurgeons are aided extensively by neuroimaging, including MRI and EEG scans. Some forms of neurosurgery are minimally invasive; for example, pituitary tumors can be treated surgically using an endoscope introduced through the nose.
Conditions that can be treated with neurosurgery include:
- Spinal stenosis
- Spinal cord trauma
- Brain trauma
- Tumors of the brain, spine, and peripheral nerves
- Intercerebral hemorrhages
Neuropsychologists: Neurology Doctors Who Combine Neurology with Psychology
Neuropsychologists specialize in how brain function relates to psychology and behavior. Although some neuropsychologists work in academic research, others are clinical neuropsychologists who treat patients. Clinical neuropsychologists use neuroimaging tools and neuropsychological testing to relate deficits in cognition, memory, impulse control, mood regulation, and other mental processes to physical abnormalities in the brain. Patients who may have brain damage from a stroke or concussion, or who may be beginning to show signs of Alzheimer’s or another neurodegenerative disease, are often referred for a neuropsychological evaluation.