What is Behavioural Neurology?

Introduction

Behavioural neurology is a subspecialty of neurology that studies the impact of neurological damage and disease upon behaviour, memory, and cognition, and the treatment thereof.

Refer to Behavioural Neuroscience.

Background

Two fields associated with behavioural neurology are neuropsychiatry and neuropsychology. In the United States, ‘Behavioural Neurology & Neuropsychiatry’ has been recognised as a single subspecialty by the United Council for Neurologic Subspecialties (UCNS) since 2004.

Symptoms

Syndromes and diseases commonly studied by behavioural neurology include:

  • Agraphia.
  • Agnosias.
  • Agraphesthesia.
  • Alexia (acquired dyslexia).
  • Amnesias.
  • Anosognosia.
  • Aphasias.
  • Apraxias.
  • Aprosodias.
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
  • Autism.
  • Dementia.
  • Dyslexia.
  • Epilepsy.
  • Hemispatial Neglect.
  • Psychosis.
  • Stroke.
  • Traumatic brain injury.

Brief History

While descriptions of behavioural syndromes go back to the ancient Greeks and Egyptians, it was during the 19th century that behavioural neurology began to arise, first with the primitive localisation theories of Franz Gall, followed in the mid 19th century by the first localisations in aphasias by Paul Broca and then Carl Wernicke. Localisationist neurology and clinical descriptions reached a peak in the late 19th and early 20th century, with work extending into the clinical descriptions of dementias by Alois Alzheimer and Arnold Pick. The work of Karl Lashley in rats for a time in the early to mid 20th century put a damper on localisation theory and lesion models of behavioural function.

In the United States, the work of Norman Geschwind led to a renaissance of behavioural neurology. He is famous for his work on disconnection syndromes, aphasia, and behavioural syndromes of limbic epilepsy, also called Geschwind syndrome. Having trained generations of behavioural neurologists (e.g. Antonio Damasio), Geschwind is considered the father of behavioural neurology.

The advent of in vivo neuroimaging starting in the 1980s led to a further strengthening of interest in the cognitive neurosciences and provided a tool that allowed for lesion, structural, and functional correlations with behavioural dysfunction in living people.

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