Motor neurone disease (MND) is the name given to a group of diseases in which the nerve cells - neurones - controlling the muscles that enable us to move, speak, breathe and swallow; undergo degeneration and die.
Motor function is controlled by upper motor neurones (UMN) in the brain that descend to the spinal cord; these neurones activate anterior horn cells - lower motor neurones (LMN). The LMN exit the spinal cord and directly activate muscles. With no nerves to activate them, muscles gradually weaken and waste. The patterns of weakness vary from person to person.
Motor neurone disease occurs at similar rates in most countries of the world. It is estimated that there are presently around 400,000 people worldwide diagnosed with MND and about 2000 people with MND in Australia. Slightly more men than women are diagnosed with MND, most commonly in the 50 to 60 year age group. However, MND may be diagnosed in adults at any age.