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Brain & Nervous System Health Center

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Nervous System Problems - Topic Overview

The nervous system is a complex, highly specialized network. It organizes, explains, and directs interactions between you and the world around you. The nervous system camera.gif controls:

  • Sight, hearing, taste, smell, and feeling (sensation).
  • Voluntary and involuntary functions, such as movement, balance, and coordination. The nervous system also regulates the actions of most other body systems, such as blood flow and blood pressure.
  • The ability to think and reason. The nervous system allows you to be conscious and have thoughts, memories, and language.

The nervous system is divided into the brain and spinal cord (central nervous system, or CNS) and the nerve cells that control voluntary and involuntary movements (peripheral nervous system, or PNS).

The symptoms of a nervous system problem depend on which area of the nervous system is involved and what is causing the problem. Nervous system problems may occur slowly and cause a gradual loss of function (degenerative). Or they may occur suddenly and cause life-threatening problems (acute). Symptoms may be mild or severe. Some serious conditions, diseases, and injuries that can cause nervous system problems include:

A sudden (acute) nervous system problem can cause many different symptoms, depending on the area of the nervous system involved. Stroke and transient ischemic attack (TIA) are common examples of acute problems. You may experience the sudden onset of one or more symptoms, such as:

Seizures can also cause sudden changes in consciousness, feeling (sensation), emotion, or thought. Abnormal body movements, such as muscle twitching, may or may not be present. How often the seizures occur and how severe they are depend on the cause of the seizures and the area of the brain involved. For more information, see the topic Seizures.

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