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Medical Terminology for Health Professions


types of neurons: Afferent, Connecting, Efferent


an excessive fear of being in high places

afferent neurons (afferent means toward)

sensory neurons; emerge from sensory organs and the skin to carry the impulses from the sensory organs toward the brain and spinal cord


an excessive fear of situations in which having a panic attack seems likely and/or dangerous or embarrassing


chronic alcohol dependence with specific signs and symptoms upon withdrawal

Alzheimer's disease

disorder associated with degenerative changes in the brain structure that lead to progressive memory loss, impaired cognition, and personality changes


a memory disturbance characterized by a total or partial inability to recall past experiences


a barbiturate used as a sedative and hypnotic

amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)

a degenerative disease in which patients become progressively weaker until they are completely paralyzed; also known as Lou Gehrig's disease


the absence of normal sensation, especially sensitivity to pain, that is induced by the administration of an anesthetic


a physician who specializes in administering anesthetic agents before and during surgery


the medication used to induce anesthesia


a medical professional who specializes in administering anesthesia, but is not a physician


administered to prevent seizures such as those associated with epilepsy


a medication administered to prevent or relieve depression

antipsychotic drug

a medication administered to treat symptoms of severe disorders of thinking and mood that are associated with neurological and psychiatric illnesses such as schizophrenia, mania, and delusional disorders

anxiety disorders

mental conditions characterized by anxiety or fear that is out of proportion to the real danger in a situation

anxiolytic drug

a medication administered to temporarily relieve anxiety and to reduce tension; also known as an antianxiety drug or tranquilizer


the loss of the ability to speak, write, and/or comprehend the written or spoken word

arachnoid membrane

the second layer of the meninges and is located between the dura mater and the pia mater


an excessive fear of spiders

ascending nerve tracts

carry nerve impulses toward the brain

attention deficit disorder

characterized by a short attention span and impulsive behavior that is inappropriate for the child's developmental age


describes a group of conditions in which a young child cannot develop normal social relationships

autonomic nervous system

controls the involuntary actions of the body


a process that extends away from the cell body and conducts impulses away from the nerve cell


a class of drugs whose major action is a calming or depressed effect on the central nervous system

behavioral therapy

focuses on changing behavior by identifying problem behaviors, replacing them with appropriate behaviors, and using rewards or other consequences to make the changes

Bell's palsy

temporary paralysis of the seventh cranial nerve that causes drooping only on the affected side of the face

bipolar disorder

a condition characterized by cycles of severe mood changes shifting from highs (manic behavior) and severe lows (depression) that affect a person's attitude, energy, and ability to function

brain tumor

an abnormal growth located inside the skull


the stalk-like portion of the brain that connects the cerebral hemispheres with the spinal cord; made up of three parts: the midbrain, pons, and medulla

carotid ultrasonography

an ultrasound study of the carotid artery to detect plaque buildup in the artery to predict or diagnose an ischemic stroke

catatonic behavior

marked by a lack of responsiveness, stupor, and a tendency to remain in a fixed posture


persistent, severe burning pain that usually follows an injury to a sensory nerve

central nervous system (CNS)

includes the brain and spinal cord


pain in the head; also known as a headache


the second-largest part of the brain, located at the back of the head below the posterior portion of the cerebrum


pertaining to the cerebrum or to the brain

cerebral contusion

the bruising of brain tissue as the result of a head injury that may also cause swelling of the brain

cerebral hemispheres

the cerebrum is divided into these two parts

cerebral lobes

each cerebral hemisphere is subdivided to create pairs of lobes; each lobe is named for the bone of the cranium that covers it

cerebral palsy

a congenital condition characterized by poor muscle control, spasticity, speech defects, and other neurologic deficiencies

cerebrospinal fluid

a clear, colorless, and watery fluid that flows throughout the brain and around the spinal cord

cerebrovascular accident

damage to the brain that occurs when the blood flow to the brain is disrupted; also known as a stroke


the largest and uppermost portion of the brain, consisting of four lobes

cervical radiculopathy

nerve pain caused by pressure on the spinal nerve roots in the neck region


an abnormal fear of being in narrow or enclosed spaces

cluster headaches

intensely painful headaches that affect one side of the head and may be associated with tearing of the eyes and nasal congestion


the mental activities associated with thinking, learning,and memory

cognitive therapy

focuses on changing cognitions or thoughts that are affecting a person's emotions or actions


a deep state of unconsciousness

complex regional pain syndrome

pain that occurs after an injury to an arm or a leg, a heart attack, stroke, or other medical problem


a violent shaking up or jarring of the brain that may result in a temporary loss of awareness and function

connecting neurons

associative neurons which link sensory and motor neurons


the state of being awake, alert, aware, and responding appropriately

conversion disorder

characterized by serious temporary or ongoing changes in function, such as paralysis or blindness, that are triggered by psychological factors rather than by any physical cause

cranial hematoma

a collection of blood trapped in the tissues of the brain

cranial nerves

12 pairs of nerves that originate from the undersurface of the brain


a potentially reversible condition that comes on suddenly and is often associated with high fever, intoxication, or shock in which the patient is confused, disoriented, and unable to think clearly

delirium tremens

an acute organic brain syndrome due to alcohol withdrawal that is characterized by sweating, tremor, restlessness, anxiety, mental confusion, and hallucinations


a false personal belief that is maintained despite obvious proof or evidence to the contrary


a slowly progressive decline in mental abilities, including memory, thinking, and judgment, that is often accompanied by personality changes


the root-like processes that receive impulses and conduct them to the cell body


a common mood disorder characterized by lethargy and sadness, as well as the loss of interest or pleasure in normal activities

descending nerve tracts

carry nerve impulses away from the brain

dissociative disorders

occur when normal thought is separated from consciousness

dissociative identity disorder

a mental illness characterized by the presence of two or more distinct personalities, each with its own characteristics, which appear to exist within the same individual; formerly known as multiple personality disorder

dura mater

the thick, tough, outermost membrane of the meninges


a learning disability characterized by substandard reading achievement due to the inability of the brain to process symbols; also known as a developmental reading disorder


a low-grade chronic depression with symptoms that are milder than those of severe depression but are present on a majority of days for 2 or more years


the use ofultrasound imaging to diagnose a shift in the midline structures of the brain

efferent neurons (efferent means away from)

motor neurons which carry impulses away from the brain and spinal cord and toward the muscles and glands


the process of recording the electrical activity of the brain through the use of electrodes attached to the scalp


an inflammation of the brain


a congenital herniation of brain tissue through a gap in the skull

epidural anesthesia

regional anesthesia produced by injecting a local anesthetic into the epidural space of the lumbar or sacral region of the spine


a chronic neurological condition characterized by recurrent episodes of seizures of varying severity

factitious disorder

a condition in which an individual acts as if he or she has a physical or mental illness when he or she is not really sick; previously known as Munchausen syndrome

factitious disorder by proxy

a form of child abuse; although seeming very concerned about the child's well-being, the mentally ill parent will falsify an illness in a child by making up, or inducing symptoms, and then seeking medical treatment, even surgery, for the child


a nerve center made up of a cluster of nerve cell bodies outside the central nervous system

generalized anxiety disorder

characterized by chronic anxiety plus exaggerated worry and tension even when there is little or nothing to provoke these feelings

glial cells

provide support and protection for neurons

Gullain-Barre syndrome

an inflammation of the myelin sheath of peripheral nerves, characterized by rapidly worsening muscle weakness that may lead to temporary paralysis; also known as infectious polyneuritis


a sensory perception experienced in the absence of an external stimulation

hemorrhagic stroke

occurs when a blood vessel in the brain leaks or ruptures; also known as a bleed


a condition in which there is an abnormally increased amount of cerebrospinal fluid within the ventricles of the brain


a condition of excessive sensitivity to stimuli


the use of hypnosis to produce a relaxed state of focused attention in which the patient may be more willing to believe and act on suggestions


depresses the central nervous system and usually produces sleep


a condition characterized by misinterpretation of physical symptoms and fearing that one has a serious illness despite appropriate medical evaluation and reassurance


located below the thalamus, controls vital bodily functions

impulse-control disorders

a group of psychiatric disorders characterized by the inability to resist an impulse despite potential negative consequences


the supply of nerves to a specific body part


the prolonged or abnormal inability to sleep

intracranial pressure

the amount of pressure inside the skull

ischemic stroke

a type of stroke that occurs when the flow of blood to the brain is blocked


a disorder characterized by repeatedly stealing objects neither for personal use nor for their monetary value

learning disabilities

disorders found in children of normal intelligence who have difficulties in learning specific skills such as processing language or grasping mathematical concepts


a lowered level of consciousness marked by listlessness, drowsiness, and apathy

levels of consciousness (LOC)

terms used to describe alterations of consciousness caused by injury, disease, or substances such as medication, drugs, or alcohol


surgical removal of a portion of the brain to treat brain cancer or seizure disorders that cannot be controlled with medication

lumbar puncture

the process of obtaining a sample of cerebrospinal fluid by inserting a needle into the subarachnoid space of the lumbar region to withdraw fluid

lumbar radiculopathy

nerve pain in the lower back caused by muscle spasms or by nerve root irritation from the compression of vertebral disks such as a herniated disk

magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computer tomography (CT)

important neuroimaging tools because they facilitate the examination of the soft tissue structures of the brain and spinal cord


characterized by the intentional creation of false or grossly exaggerated physical or psychological symptoms

manic behavior

includes an abnormally elevated mood state, including inappropriate elation, increased irritability, severe insomnia, poor judgment, and inappropriate social behavior


located at the lowest part of the brainstem, connected to the spinal cord


the system of membranes that enclose the brain and spinal cord of the CNS


an inflammation of the meninges of the brain or spinal cord


the congenital herniation of the meninges that surround the brain or spinal cord through a defect in the skull or spinal column

mental retardation

a diagnosis based on three criteria: 1) significant below-average intellectual functioning; 2) significant deficits in adaptive functioning; and 3) onset during the developmental period of life, which is before age 18

midbrain and pons

provides conduction pathways to and from the higher and lower centers in the brain

migraine headache

a headache characterized by throbbing pain on one side of the head

mood stabilizing drugs

used to treat mood instability and bipolar disorders; an example is lithium

multiple sclerosis

a progressive autoimmune disorder characterized by scattered patches of demyelination of nerve fibers of the brain and spinal cord

myelin sheath

the protective covering made up of glial cells


an inflammation of the spinal cord; also inflammation of bone marrow


a radiographic study of the spinal cord after the injection of a contrast medium through a lumbar puncture. The resulting record is called a myelogram.


a tumor of the spinal cord


a sleep disorder consisting of recurring episodes of falling asleep during the day


one or more bundles of neurons that connect the brain and the spinal cord with other parts of the body


a physician who specializes in diagnosing and treating diseases and disorders of the nervous system


the basic cells of the nervous system that allow different parts of the body to communicate with each other


the surgical repair of a nerve or nerves


surgically suturing together the ends of a severed nerve


a physician who specializes in surgery of the nervous system


a surgical incision or the dissection of a nerve


chemical substances that make it possible for messages to cross from the synapse of a neuron to the target receptor; examples include acetylcholine, dopamine, endorphins, norepinephrine, and serotonin

obsessive-compulsive disorder

an anxiety disorder characterized by recurrent, unwanted thoughts or impulses

panic attack

a group of intense emotional feelings that include apprehension, fearfulness, and terror

panic disorder

an anxiety disorder characterized by unexpected and repeated episodes known as panic attacks

parasympathetic nervous system

returns the body to normal after a response to stress


refers to a burning or prickling sensation that is usually felt in the hands, arms, legs, or feet, but can also occur in other parts of the body

Parkinson's disease (PD)

a chronic, degenerative central nervous disorder in which there is a progressive loss of control over movement, resulting in tremors and a shuffling gait

peripheral nervous system (PNS)

includes the 12 pairs of cranial nerves extending from the brain and the 31 pairs of peripheral spinal nerves extending outward from the spinal cord

peripheral neuropathy

a painful condition of the nerves of the hands and feet due to damage to the peripheral nerves; also known as peripheral neuritis

peripheralspinal nerves

31 pairs of spinal nerves that are grouped together and named based on the region of the body they innervate

persistent vegetative state

a type of coma in which the patient exhibits alternating sleep and wake cycles

personality disorder

a chronic pattern of inner experience and behavior that causes serious problems with relationships and work


a barbiturate used as a sedative and as an anticonvulsant


a persistent irrational fear of a specific thing or situation, strong enough to cause significant distress, to interfere with functioning, and to lead to the avoidance of the thing or situation that causes this reaction

pia mater

the third layer of the meninges, located nearest to the brain and spinal cord


a network of intersecting spinal nerves


a highly contagious viral disease; also known as polio

posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

the development of characteristic symptoms after a major traumatic event


a physician who specializes in diagnosing and treating chemical dependencies, emotional problems, and mental illness


based on the idea that mental disorders have underlying causes stemming from childhood and can only be overcome by gaining insight into one's feelings and patterns of behavior


holds an advanced degree but is not a medical doctor; evaluates and treats emotional problems and mental illness

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