By Jacob Ahlstrom | Posted - Aug 27th, 2019





Motor Neuron Diseases

Motor neuron diseases (MND) are a group of progressive neurological disorders. The diseases target motor neurons, causing them to degenerate slowly. Motor neurons are cells that are in control of essential voluntary muscle movement.

In a person who doesn't have an MND, nerve cells in the brain (upper motor neurons) send messages to the brain stem and spinal cord (lower motor neurons). Once received, the cells in these areas relay the messages to the rest of the body. If these messages get disrupted, a person's muscles won't work correctly and will gradually weaken. In the case of those who have an MND, this disruption takes the form of degeneration of nerve cells. Upper motor neurons

MND's can affect both adults and children. In children, an MND is either present at birth or present before they learn to talk. For adults, MND's are most common in men and appear after age 40.

There are many different types of MND's. Two categories define them: if they are inherited or sporadic, or if they affect upper motor neurons or lower motor neurons or both. Some common types of MNDs are:

  • ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis):
    • affects both upper and lower motor neurons
    • inherited and sporadic
    • strikes people between 40 to 60 years old
    • affects men more than women
    • fatal
  • PLS (primary lateral sclerosis):
    • affects upper motor neurons
    • affects men more than women
    • strikes people between 40 to 60 years old
  • PMA (progressive muscular atrophy):
    • affects lower motor neurons
    • affects men more than women
    • early onset
  • PBP (progressive bulbar palsy):
    • affects the lowest motor neurons of the brain stem
    • marked by outbursts of laughing or crying (emotional lability)
    • extremely rare

Motor Neuron Disease Misdiagnosis

Because of the similarity seen amongst motor neuron diseases and the difficulty to diagnose ALS, many of these motor neuron diseases get misdiagnosed. In 10-15 percent of cases, patients are diagnosed with ALS when in actuality, they have another MND. In 40% of cases, patients are diagnosed with another MND when they have ALS. Misdiagnosing ALS, for some people, could mean the difference between life and death. Misdiagnosing an MND can lead to a patient not getting the proper treatment they need to fight their disease. Remember always to get a second opinion on a diagnosis to ensure you are receiving the correct treatment.

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Jacob Ahlstrom
About the Author

Jacob Ahlstrom - Jacob is a Neuroscience undergraduate at Brigham Young University. Jacob's interest in researching and writing about ALS is fueled by his hope to make the process easier for everyone else. Over the last year he has worked alongside Seth Christensen to find ways to educate and connect ALS patients.