Given that the human brain is the most complex, and arguably most important of our body's organ systems, it is not surprising that disorders are so common-and comprise such a wide variety of neurological and psychiatric disease states including such diverse conditions as sleep disorders, obesity, and alcohol/substance abuse. Nervous system disorders like depression, schizophrenia, and Alzheimer's disease are also among the most debilitating and devastating diseases to afflict mankind. Their contribution to human suffering-both for patients and their loved ones-is immeasurable. Moreover, individually and collectively, nervous system disorders result in a tremendous economic burden to society. The annual economic burden (both direct and indirect costs) for Alzheimer's disease and schizophrenia in the U.S. alone has been estimated to be over 100 billion dollars!
Nervous system disorders also represent one of the great challenges to today's medical researcher. In many respects, we still know very little about the brain and the underlying mechanisms that cause most nervous system disorders. Over the past twenty years, however, scientists have made many fundamental and startling discoveries about brain function and dysfunction which have led to a much better understanding of both the etiology and pathophysiology of many nervous system disorders.
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