Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis

MGP Final Product


The topic I researched was Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrig's disease. The first thing I needed to understand was how the nervous system works. I found that the nervous system is composed of two subsections, the central nervous system and the peripheral nervous system. Both of the subsections are made of hundreds of billions of nerve cells or neurons. "Neurons are the basic data processing units, 'the chips' of the brain."(What are Neurons?) Neurons are responsible for storing, analyzing, and processing the data the body produces and receives. All of these actions are possible, because of the electrochemical signals that are sent by the neurons, from the muscles to the brains and back to the muscles. ALS affects the nervous system, because it is a disease that destroys the neurons that make up the nervous system. ALS is classified as a motor neuron disease, meaning it affects the motor neurons in our body. The motor neurons are responsible for the allowance of the movement of the muscles we have control over. The reason why this disease has been introduced into our bodies is still highly questionable. This leads to the fact that there can be no cure, because the cause is unknown. There are medicines such as riluzole, that may assist in the slowing down of the process, but the best thing to do is make the victim as comfortable as possible.

The Symptoms of ALS

The Symptoms of ALS

By Luke Conlon

ALS is a motor neuron disease, meaning it affects the motor neurons. These neurons allow the body to perform everyday actions, such as walking, eating, and breathing. ALS destroys the neurons intended to send signals to the muscles telling the muscles how and when to move. This causes the muscles to become weak, and also it has many other effects on the body.

The disease may start in the muscles of the arms or legs. The first symptoms associated with a limb onset are fasciculations (fine twitches), cramps, and muscle weakness. In other cases the disease begins in the mouth, known as a bulbar onset. The first symptoms that commonly arise are slurred speech, and trouble chewing or swallowing. If the upper motor neurons found in the brain are affected, the symptoms normally include spasticity, and hyperreflexia. If the lower motor neurons found in the spinal cord are affected, symptoms include muscle weakness and muscle cramps.After a few years the disease has many more symptoms affecting the whole body.

After around three years most muscles have been affected including the diaphragm. Simple everyday tasks become impossible, because the muscles no longer work. Assistance is required to breath, eat, walk, and in some cases communicate. ALS does not affect the senses of touch, sight, smell, hearing, and taste. The brain is also unaffected, but it has been shown to alter decision making and memory. The whole time the body is experiencing cramps and choking the patient can still feel the pain of the cramps. Many of the patients become anxious or depressed, because the can not perform the everyday tasks they used to.

The body experiences many symptoms, such as muscle weakness. All of the pain and suffering is a result of the destruction of the basis of the nervous system. The neurons that allow for the transmission of the electrochemical signals are destroyed.

Research Connection

“When symptoms begin in the arms or legs, it is referred to as “limb onset” ALS. Other individuals first notice speech problems, termed “bulbar onset” ALS.”(Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) Fact Sheet) This is one of the facts stated in the essay and also included are the symptoms related to each type of onset. Later in the essay the topic of respiratory problems is addressed, and the NINDS states, “Most people with ALS die from respiratory failure, usually within 3 to 5 years from the onset of symptoms.” A major piece is how the body is still able to feel, and understand what is happening. It is hard to think the patients have to experience such intense pains, and there is nothing they can do. Stated by NINDS, “ALS does not affect a person’s ability to see, smell, taste, hear, or recognize touch,” and also “the disease usually does not impair a person’s mind or intelligence”.




It's like imploding.

The inside of you melts.

It is like cutting the wire,

From a battery to a bulb.

Your muscles stop working.





They all become,


And that is only the beginning,

Of the end.

It's only been a day,

But it seems like,


Research Connection

In the poem there is a line that states, "It is like cutting the wire, From a battery to a bulb." Kids Heath states, "If you think of the brain as a central computer that controls all bodily functions, then the nervous system is like a network that relays messages back and forth from the brain to different parts of the body." The brain is the central processor, and the neurons are the wires, that carry messages to different parts of the computer. In the poem there is also a line " Sitting, Eating, Standing, Breathing, They all become, Impossible." In the last paragraph of the "What are the Symptoms?" subsection in the NINDS website they talk of the loss of everyday abilities.


This sculpture is meant to show the effects of ALS. The battery is representing the brain and the two light bulbs are the eyes. In the back there is a wire representing the neurons that connect the brain to the rest of the body. The brain sends electrochemical signals to the receptor cells and cause an action to occur. When ALS begins to affect the connections they begin to go away and the signal is no longer sent.

Work Cited

"What are Neurons?." Bristol University Homepage. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 May 2013


"Ed Boyden: A light switch for neurons | Video on" TED: Ideas worth spreading. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 May 2013.


"Brain and Nervous System ." KidsHealth - the Web's most visited site about children's health. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 May 2013. <>

"Nervous System Information." University of Pennsylvania Health System | Penn Medicine. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 May 2013. <>.

"Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) Fact Sheet: National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS)." National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS). N.p., n.d. Web. 29 May 2013. <>.

Albom, Mitch. Tuesdays with Morrie: an old man, a young man, and life's greatest lesson. New York: Doubleday, 1997. Print.

Conlon, Jackie. Personal Interview. 18 May 2013