What is a neurologist?

A neurologist is a doctor who specialises in diagnosis and management of conditions that affect the brain, spinal cord and nerves.

Training and qualifications

Neurology training begins by training in general medicine. Once the Royal Australian College of Physicians (RACP) examinations have been passed entry into specialised neurology training is very competitive.

Once selected 4 years of specialty training follows. Trainees work under the supervision of a consultant / specialist neurologist.

Registrars must manage hospital inpatients, outpatients and are encouraged to conduct research before eventually reaching specialty level.

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What does a neurologist do?

A neurologist treats any illness involving the brain or spinal cord, such as:

  • Headache
  • Migraine
  • Stroke
  • Seizures
  • Epilepsy
  • Brain infection – encephalitis or meningitis
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Myaesthenia gravis
  • Eaton Lambert syndrome
  • Huntingtons disease
  • Degenerative or inherited neuromuscular diseases
  • Spinal cord disease
  • Transverse myelitis
  • Parkinsons disease
  • Dementia

Treatment usually involves the input of a multidisciplinary team. Types of tests performed by neurologists and their team include:

Medications may be useful in many conditions and may control or cure the illness. Having said this the support and rehabilitation services offered by a multidisciplinary team often make up the mainstay of management.

What to expect at your first visit with a neurologist


Your neurologist will first ask about:

  • Your symptoms (their severity, onset, progression and how they affect your life)
  • Past medical problems
  • Medications
  • Previous treatment and its effect
  • Allergies
  • Family history
  • Social history


Your neurologist will then perform a neurological exam which aims to test all the functions of the brain and nerves in the human body.

Your neurologist will usually begin by asking some general questions to determine the functioning of your ‘higher centres’. This will include things like orientation, concentration and problem solving.

Next they will assess the cranial nerves – the nerves of the head. They will examine your eyes, face, tongue, mouth, ears and neck.

Next the upper limbs are examined checking tone, power, reflexes, sensation and coordination. Finally the lower limbs are examined again checking tone, power, reflexes, sensation and coordination.

From this examination your neurologist will have developed an idea of what the likely problem is, its severity and how to go about investigating and then treating it.



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This article is for informational purposes only and should not be taken as medical advice. If in doubt, HealthEngine recommends consulting with a registered health practitioner.

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