By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD
Neuroscience describes the scientific study of the mechanics of the central nervous system such as its structure, function, genetics and physiology as well as how this can be applied to understand diseases of the nervous system.
Neurology is a specialized area of medicine that concerns disorders and diseases of the nervous system ranging from Alzheimer's disease through to infection and personality disorders. Neurology involves diagnosing and treating conditions of the central, peripheral and autonomic nervous systems.
Some of the differences between the two fields include:
Neuroscientists are basic scientists who may or may not have a degree in medicine. Most of them, however, are doctorates in neuroscience. Neurologists on the other hand have an undergraduate degree with four years at medical school and a year of internship.
This is followed by three years of specialized training and usually additional study in a particular area of neurology such as stroke, epilepsy or movement disorders. Neurologists are usually physicians, but they may also refer their patients to surgeons specializing in neurology called neurosurgeons.
Neuroscientists conduct research on patients and on laboratory animals including rats and mice. Neurologists, on the other hand, are practicing physicians who diagnose and treat neurological diseases in humans.
Neurologists order tests such as imaging studies including computed tomography (CT) scans, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans or laboratory tests such as cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) examination. They may also order brain electrical activity studies such as an electroencephalogram (EEG) for diagnosis of disorders such as epilepsy, for example.
Neurologists may go on to specialize in a particular field such as pediatric or childhood neurology, stroke, epilepsy or movement disorders. Neurologists treat diseases and disorders such as stroke, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, amyotropic lateral sclerosis, migraine, epilepsy, sleep disorders, pain, tremors, brain and spinal cord injury, peripheral nerve disease, brain tumors and cancer.
Such super-specializations are not the norm in neuroscience. However, neuroscientists may focus their research on any of the various areas listed above or on areas such as neuro-immunology, oxidative stress and neurological disorders. In addition, there may be considerable overlap between psychiatry, mental ailments and neuroscience.
Reviewed by Sally Robertson, BSc
Last Updated: Feb 27, 2014