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Specialty Description

A neurologist specializes in the evaluation and treatment of all types of disease or impaired function of the brain, spinal cord, peripheral nerves, muscles, and autonomic nervous system, as well as the blood vessels that relate to these structures. 

What is a neurologist?

A neurologist specializes in the evaluation and treatment of all types of disease or impaired function of the brain, spinal cord, peripheral nerves, muscles, and autonomic nervous system, as well as the blood vessels that relate to these structures. These disorders include: stroke, brain and spinal tumors, muscular dystrophy, headache and other pain, meningitis, encephalitis, epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease and other memory disorders, multiple sclerosis, and effects of systemic diseases, like high blood pressure and diabetes, on the nervous system.

Primary Specialty Certificate

Neurology with special Qualification in Child Neurology Child neurologists diagnose and treat similar disorders in infants, children, and adolescents. They also have special competence in genetic and metabolic problems, malformation, retardation, and other neurodevelopmental problems of childhood.

Specialty training required prior to certification: Five years

What does a neurologist do?

A neurologist is a medical doctor with specialized training in diagnosing, treating and managing disorders of the brain and nervous system including Alzheimer’s disease, headache/ migraine, stroke, epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, concussion/brain injury, autism, and hundreds more.

Neurologists diagnose, treat, and perform procedures as a principal care provider or as part of a care team. When a patient has a neurologic disorder that requires frequent care, such as Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, epilepsy/ seizure disorders, or multiple sclerosis, a neurologist is often the principal care provider. As a consultant for conditions such as concussion or headache, for example, a neurologist will diagnose and treat a neurologic disorder and then advise the primary  care physician managing the patient’s overall health.

In neurology, an accurate diagnosis is the first step toward effective treatment. Diagnosis involves getting a detailed history of the patient and testing using neurologic examination of mental status, vision, strength, coordination, reflexes and sensation. Some common neurologic tests used to complete the examination include computed tomography (CT) or computer-assisted tomography (CAT) scans, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), electroencephalography (EEG), electromyography and nerve conduction studies (EMG), and cerebral spinal fluid analysis (lumbar puncture).

Neurologists do not perform surgery. Though neurologists and neurosurgeons work closely together for several conditions, sometimes even in the same operating room, neurosurgeons are medical doctors who specialize in performing surgical treatments of the brain or nervous system. Rather, neurologists perform intraoperative monitoring, acute stroke management, and, with specialty training, intravascular procedures for stroke.

With new therapies and technology, neurologists have numerous career options available, whether in academic (clinical or research- based), or private practice. The field of neurology is attractive to those who enjoy problem solving, using clinical examination skills, and developing long-term relationships with patients. A neurologist’s time may be divided between seeing patients, doing research (e.g., writing proposals and papers, conducting laboratory or clinical studies, etc.), attending conferences, and teaching.

How to become a neurologist?

Specialty training required prior to certification: Four years

A neurologist’s training includes a one-year internship in internal medicine (or two years of pediatrics for pediatric neurologists), and at least three years of specialized residency training in neurology. Training and education requirements for residencies are set by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME). Fellowship and subspecialty training and education requirements are set by the ACGME or the United Council for Neurologic Subspecialties (UCNS). Neurologists concentrate in either adult or pediatric neurology and many invest one or two additional years of training in a subspecialty such as epilepsy, neuromuscular disease, movement disorders, and/ or stroke. Once a physician passes the written examination as administered by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology (ABPN), he or she is granted board-certified status in neurology. Once this is achieved, certification in a subspecialty can  be pursued, if desired. Subspecialty certification is obtained from the ABPN or UCNS.

The American Academy of Neurology offers free membership for medical students interested in pursuing a career in neurology or the neurosciences. The Student Interest Group in Neurology (SIGN) program provides opportunities to learn more about the field and participate in clinical, research and service activities.