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Understanding Disorders of the Brain

From autism to Alzheimer’s, learn about brain diseases and disorders in these 24 captivating lessons.
Understanding Disorders of the Brain is rated 3.8 out of 5 by 6.
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Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good given how much is still unknown This is a tough subject - we have labels for many brain abnormalities and descriptions of the ways in which people behave when something has gone awry in the brain, but so few situations where there are clear diagnostic criteria and good details about exactly what has failed (there's a lot of "rule out all other causes and it's probably xyz"). The lecturer is very clear and gives good explanations; it probably helped that I've already watched several other great courses about the brain as there's lots of specialist terminology. She gives lists of typical symptoms and diagrams of which areas of the brain are understood to be damaged. Where research has given solid details - such as destruction of the myelin sheath in multiple sclerosis - the lecturer presents the material very well. Where so much is still up in the air - such as with respect to Alzheimer's - I would have preferred more clarity about which areas were still highly contested/uncertain. I didn't enjoy the personal stories much (mother's stroke & lecturer's aneurysm) - went on way too long, although examples are very helpful in general. I also found the cheery sign-offs "see you next time!" a bit jarring after some of the courses describing really devastating brain injuries. I enjoyed an aside about some research the lecturer had done and how it was designed.
Date published: 2022-07-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Riveting I was so riveted by this course that I watched all 24 lectures in the shortest time I have I ever watched any course! This is an excellent introduction for the interested student/ intelligent layperson, giving a good overview of several brain disorders and relevant research. The lectures are clear, engaging, and packed with accessible details and theories, along with facts that have been established. Yes, some of it could be contested, but that is true of all areas of academic research and expertise. Apart from being interesting in itself, if you have a loved one who is affected by a brain condition, you will also learn how to understand and relate to them more, and the best way to help them. You will also learn how to reduce your chances of developing some of them. Excellent lecturer, who knows her subject well.
Date published: 2022-06-30
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Dysleixa is an Instructional Problem I have been a 20 year fan of TheTeaching Company lectures but I found Dr. Neargarder’s Lecture Seven on dyslexia breathtakingly speculative. She states that nine to ten genes “might” be linked to dyslexia--a generalized reading “disorder” for which there are no consensus diagnostic tests. Symptoms are “heterogenous” and researchers sharply disagree if there are even different types of the disorder. Astoundingly, Neargarder never even considers poor reading instruction as a variable. As a forty year public school reading teacher at the kindergarten, elementary, and secondary levels, I have encountered numerous students mislabeled as dyslexic who simply never had systematic instruction in phonemic awareness. Proficent students know their letter sounds while struggling decoders only know the names of the letters. After ten to twenty hours of instruction in phoneme and grapheme mapping--voila-”Dyslexic” students are good! “Dyslexia” is an instructional problem--not a nebulous disorder mysteriously yet categorically lodged in 5-10% of students' brains.
Date published: 2022-06-28
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Perhaps Too Technical This course is essentially a series of independent lectures on the diagnosis, cause, and treatment of a variety of brain disorders as listed in the syllabus. In my opinion, owing to the technical terminology employed throughout, this course is oriented toward those who already have a solid understanding of brain anatomy. The course is of limited value for those who, like me, cannot discuss the difference between an amygdala and a hypothalamus. The first two lectures provide a necessary foundation for the course and they address the structure and functioning of the brain. Except for the capstone final lecture, all remaining lectures address specific abnormalities of the brain such as autism, stroke, Alzheimer’s Disease, etc. In these lectures, Dr. Neargarder typically presents the symptoms, discusses the diagnosis, and closes with the treatment and medication. The listener is likely to have particular interest in some but not all of the specific disorders. Even if the listener wants to cherry-pick just a few lectures (such as those on autism, stroke, or Alzheimer’s Disease), it is important to watch the first two lectures, which are foundational to all following lectures. Dr. Neargarder uses a lot of technical terms, such as names of parts of the brain and medications, throughout the course but particularly in the first two lectures. This makes it more difficult to follow the lectures although I’m not sure what alternative she had. It is best to have the course guide in hand when listening to the lectures. I thought that the two lectures on Alzheimer’s Disease used less technical language and were among the best lectures in the course. The course guide is in paragraph format with lots of important illustrations. It is often helpful to follow along with the course guide while listening to the lecture (more so than in most courses). Unfortunately, the course guide does not have a glossary, a glaring deficiency considering how much technical language is used throughout the course. I used the video version. In general, the visual aids were important in understanding the material. One can listen in audio-only mode such as while commuting or exercising but there will be some loss of comprehension. The course was published in 2022.
Date published: 2022-06-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fantastic Course! Dr. Neargarder’s content was interesting and very easy to understand. I love how she uses real life examples and graphics to make her point. If you looking to learn about brain disorders this is the course for you!
Date published: 2022-06-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Strokes Since Understanding the Brain has one lecture on strokes, this one has two. Since I had an ischemic stroke on January 22 2018, with my right arm, hand, leg and foot partially paralyzed, I'm getting this course to learn more.
Date published: 2022-06-17
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Delve into the mysteries of what can go awry inside our central processing unit. Taught by esteemed Professor Sandy Neargarder, the 24 eye-opening lessons in Understanding Disorders of the Brain survey some of the most common, and not-so-common, disorders that disrupt the many ways our brains function.


Sandy Neargarder

A better understanding of disorders affecting the brain can help all of us to minimize the risk of developing them, recognize possible symptoms, and ensure the most appropriate course of action, both for ourselves and others.


Bridgewater State University

Sandy Neargarder is a Professor of Psychology at Bridgewater State University. She received her PhD in Experimental Psychology from Vanderbilt University with a dissertation on exploring dementia in Down syndrome. Following graduation, she served a two-year term as a postdoctoral research fellow at Boston University and has continued her involvement there as a research scientist in the Vision & Cognition Laboratory. Her research has been published in numerous peer-reviewed journals, including Behavioral Neuroscience, Clinical Nutrition, Cognitive and Behavioral Neurology, Cortex, Neurology, Neuropsychology, Parkinson’s Disease, Perception, and Vision Research.

By This Professor

Understanding Disorders of the Brain
Understanding Disorders of the Brain


Anatomy and Functioning of the Brain

01: Anatomy and Functioning of the Brain

Kick off this course with a tour of the brain. As you delve into the colorful world of grey matter, this first lesson reviews the parts of the brain and the various functions that keep our bodies operating and our minds working. This grounding in neurology will set you up to understand what follows.

30 min
Neuropsychological Assessment

02: Neuropsychological Assessment

Now that you understand the anatomy of the brain, shift your attention to the field of neuropsychology, which is both an experimental field and a clinical field within psychology. In addition to discovering how brain functioning influences behavior and cognition, neuropsychologists work to assess and treat brain disorders.

29 min
Intellectual Disabilities and Down Syndrome

03: Intellectual Disabilities and Down Syndrome

Begin the first of several lessons that focus on brain disorders commonly diagnosed during childhood—beginning here with intellectual disabilities and Down syndrome. Professor Neargarder surveys the range of disabilities and then delves into potential genetic and environmental causes.

30 min
Autism Spectrum Disorders, Part 1

04: Autism Spectrum Disorders, Part 1

In this first lesson on autism spectrum disorders, you will study the symptoms that characterize autism, how autism is diagnosed, and some of the presumed causes and comorbidities. You will also reflect on Asperger’s syndrome, which is no longer considered a stand-alone diagnosis.

29 min
Autism Spectrum Disorders, Part 2

05: Autism Spectrum Disorders, Part 2

Continue your exploration of autism by examining research on brain pathology, savant abilities, and treatment options. Revisit what you learned in the lesson on brain anatomy to see what parts of the brain play a role in autism. Then turn to behavior treatments and medications that support treatment.

31 min
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

06: Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

Most of us have heard of Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), but what exactly is this disorder? How prevalent is it and how is it treated? Dive into the different types of ADHD and how it affects children, the environmental risk factors, and some challenges of diagnosis.

31 min
Developmental Dyslexia

07: Developmental Dyslexia

Take a closer look at a language-based learning disability known as developmental dyslexia, which affects about 5-10% of school-aged children. Although the various theories regarding dyslexia are inconclusive, Professor Neargarder offers an overview of causes. Consider what’s going on inside the brain of someone with dyslexia.

29 min

08: Epilepsy

In today’s lesson, you will examine epilepsy, a disorder marked by seizures—an episode where groups of neurons in the brain fire simultaneously. After reviewing the different categories of epileptic seizures, as well as causes and treatments, you will walk through two case studies to see how epilepsy can affect people differently.

30 min
Mitochondrial Disorders

09: Mitochondrial Disorders

You may remember learning about the “mighty mitochondria” in biology. When these energy producers fail, it can lead to cell injuries and death—and debilitating effects for the person who is impacted. Here, find out about mitochondrial disorders, their symptoms and causes, and the relationship between mitochondrial disorders and the brain.

32 min
Head Injuries, Part 1

10: Head Injuries, Part 1

Shift your attention from genetic wiring to brain damage. In this first of two lessons on head injuries, Professor Neargarder discusses the common symptoms and pathology of head injuries, the categories of head injuries, and the neuropsychology of closed-head injuries such as concussions.

28 min
Head Injuries, Part 2

11: Head Injuries, Part 2

Continue your study of head injuries with a look at some unusual conditions that can result from them. From visual agnosia to bomb-blast trauma to the chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) associated with sports injuries, take a clinical look at the causes and prevention of disorders from brain injury.

28 min
Multiple Sclerosis

12: Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis, or MS, is a disorder in which the protective coating on our nerve cells gets damaged and disrupts the signals that travel from our brain to various parts of the body. MS is complicated, affecting different people in different ways. This lesson examines what we know about this debilitating disorder.

28 min
Brain Tumors

13: Brain Tumors

You likely know that brain tumors are abnormal growths of tissue, but you might be shocked to find out there are roughly 120 different types of brain and central nervous system tumors. Here, you will examine the more common types of tumors and see what scientists know about causes and treatments.

29 min
Huntington’s, ALS, and Creutzfeldt-Jakob

14: Huntington’s, ALS, and Creutzfeldt-Jakob

Take a look at three rare but important brain disorders: Huntington’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. Find out what we know about these neurodegenerative disorders—and what hope scientists have for understanding causes and cures.

31 min
Parkinson’s Disease, Part 1

15: Parkinson’s Disease, Part 1

This course opened with several lessons about disorders in childhood. Now shift your attention to a series of lessons about diseases that primarily affect older adults, starting with Parkinson’s disease. Here, learn the basics of the disease, signs and symptoms, and the underlying brain pathology.

28 min
Parkinson’s Disease, Part 2

16: Parkinson’s Disease, Part 2

Continue your survey of Parkinson’s disease with an investigation into how biological sex affects Parkinson’s disease. The side of disease onset (right or left) also affects how Parkinson’s presents itself. After reviewing these characteristics, the lesson turns to potential causes of the disorder and a review of current treatments.

26 min
Stroke, Part 1

17: Stroke, Part 1

Strokes are the leading cause of death in the United States and a major cause of serious disability in adults. In this first of two lessons, find out what exactly a stroke is (a cerebrovascular disease), learn about the different types of strokes, and review some of the common symptoms.

29 min
Stroke, Part 2

18: Stroke, Part 2

In this second exploration of strokes, review the risk factors, the types of aphasia (language disorder) that commonly occur after a stroke, and a strange condition known as alien hand syndrome. Build a checklist of things you can do to mitigate your risk, from quitting smoking to lowering cholesterol.

28 min
Alzheimer’s Disease, Part 1

19: Alzheimer’s Disease, Part 1

Dementia refers to a group of symptoms associated with a decline in memory. In your next two-part unit, you will explore the most common form of dementia: Alzheimer’s disease. Here, dive into the signs and symptoms of the disease, the neuropathy of the disorder, how it is diagnosed, and associated risk factors.

27 min
Alzheimer’s Disease, Part 2

20: Alzheimer’s Disease, Part 2

Continue your study of Alzheimer’s disease with a look at preventative measures, pharmacological and nonpharmacological interventions, tips for helping people who have the disease, and associated research trends. Round out your lesson with a look at possible directions for future Alzheimer’s research.

27 min
Lewy Body Disease and Vascular Dementia

21: Lewy Body Disease and Vascular Dementia

In addition to Alzheimer’s, there are many other forms of dementia—each with their own distinct neuropathology and cognitive deficits. In this lesson, learn about Lewy body disease dementia, Parkinson’s disease dementia, and vascular dementia. Explore the core symptoms and underlying, often mysterious causes.

31 min
FTD and Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome

22: FTD and Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome

Wrap up the unit on dementia with a survey of frontotemporal dementia (FTD) and Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome. FTD is an umbrella term for a group of neurodegenerative disorders, often in patients younger than age 65. Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome is associated with an unusual impairment of memories.

29 min
Mild Cognitive Impairment

23: Mild Cognitive Impairment

Mild cognitive impairment is a disorder that tends to precede the onset of various types of dementia. Because dementia is a progressive disorder, understanding mild cognitive impairment offers clues to prevention and treatment. Examine the differences between this disorder and the normal behaviors of aging.

27 min
The Future of Brain Research and Treatment

24: The Future of Brain Research and Treatment

Although science has come a long way in solving the mysteries of the brain, we still have a long way to go. Round out this course with a look at the forefront of research, which is a combination of neurobiology, physics, engineering, big data science, and artificial intelligence. From imaging to diagnostics, get a first look at the future of brain science.

30 min