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Introduction to Symptoms and Diagnosis of Brain, Spinal Cord, and Nerve Disorders

By Michael C. Levin, MD, University of Tennessee Health Science Center

A neurologic examination can detect disorders of the brain, spinal cord, and nerves in other parts of the body (peripheral nerves, which include motor and sensory nerves). This examination can also help detect muscle disorders because muscle contraction depends on stimulation by a nerve.

The two main components of a neurologic examination are the medical history and the physical examination (including mental status evaluation). If necessary, diagnostic procedures are done to confirm the diagnosis or exclude other possible disorders.

A neurologic examination differs from a psychiatric examination, which focuses on a person's behavior. However, the two examinations overlap somewhat because abnormal behavior often provides clues about the brain’s physical condition.

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