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November 4, 2009 > What do you know about your nervous system?

What do you know about your nervous system?

Did you know that the simple act of turning your head to look as something or raising your arm to wave at someone, involves a complex interaction between different parts of your nervous system? This important system of your body is made up of three sub-systems: the central nervous system, or your brain and spine; the peripheral nervous system, which connects the central nervous system to your limbs and organs; and the autonomic nervous system, which controls many of your body's subconscious actions, such as heart beat, breathing, digestion and more.

Today, experts know of more than 250 different disorders that can affect the nervous system. As our population grows older, the number of people experiencing some type of problem with their nervous system continues to increase.

"Neurologic disorders is a vast topic, and everyday we are learning more about this field of medicine," says Ravinder Kahlon, MD, neurologist on the medical staff at Washington Hospital. One important area within neurology is the treatment of movement disorders, such as tremors, Parkinson's disease, dystonia (sustained muscle contractions that cause twisting and repetitive movements or abnormal postures) and restless leg syndrome. These conditions can be chronic and can worsen over time. Washington Hospital's Taylor McAdam Bell Institute includes a Movement Disorders Program that offers patients some of the latest, minimally invasive treatments for different types of movement disorder problems.

On November 10 at 1 p.m., Dr. Kahlon will lead a free, public Health & Wellness seminar about common movement disorders, their causes, treatments and possible prevention.

"One fairly common movement disorder is tremors," reports Dr. Kahlon. "Most people associate this symptom with Parkinson's disease, a degenerative condition of the brain. However, tremors may have other causes."

"Even if the diagnosis turns out to be Parkinson's," she continues, "that does not necessarily mean the patient will become totally disabled. The symptoms of Parkinson's and its progression are different in each individual. We'll talk more about this at the seminar."

Dr. Kahlon will also discuss the current status of stem cell research related to Parkinson's disease, a topic that has generated a great deal of interest in recent years.

One leading edge treatment now performed at Washington Hospital for people with Parkinson's disease is called Deep Brain Stimulation. This approach is intended for patients whose condition no longer responds to medication. During the procedure, physicians insert a wire into a deep part of the brain, sending electrical impulses that stimulate brain tissue and help to improve the patient's ability to function.

Deep brain stimulation can markedly improve quality of life by enabling people to return to their normal activities. Many times, after deep brain stimulation treatment, patients' need for anti-tremor medications is reduced or eliminated.

Seizure disorders is another condition Dr. Kahlon will discuss at the seminar.

"People sometimes have black-out spells and this can be very scary," she explains. "Passing out can be a sign of a neurological problem, but it can also have other causes, such as heart disease. So, we have to do examinations and tests to determine where the problem lies."

There are different types of seizures, from what are called "grand mal" seizures to smaller episodes. Dr. Kahlon will explain the variations, their possible causes and treatments. There are numerous medications available to treat seizure disorders with more coming on the market.

"One advantage of some of the newer medications is that they have fewer side effects, including less impairment to a patient's memory," adds Dr. Kalhon.

To reserve your spot at the upcoming seminar on Movement Disorders, go to and click on Community Connection, or call Washington Hospital's Health Connection toll-free hotline at (800) 963-7070.

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