For the Classroom

Guess the Disorder Quiz: Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis

  • Published2 Jul 2018
  • Reviewed2 Jul 2018
  • Author Emma Lindberg
  • Source BrainFacts/SfN


Neurologists and psychiatrists work every day to diagnose patients. One way they do this is by observing patients and asking them to describe their symptoms. In this activity, students will fill the role of a neurologist trying to diagnose a disease or disorder based on the evidence provided.

After studying the provided materials on diseases and disorders in the eighth edition of Brain Facts, students will investigate the symptoms of an unnamed disease using a handful of clues. Students will sift through their knowledge of neurodegenerative diseases, injury, and psychiatric disorders to eliminate wrong answers and solve the mystery.

Prep Work

This activity is based on chapters 11–15 (pages 71–104) of the eighth edition of Brain Facts. Encourage students to read the chapters during class time or on their own to study for the Guess the Disorder Quiz.


  1. Provide your student with the “Disorder Clues” prompt.
  2. Ask your students to read the prompt and use the information they learned from the Brain Facts book to determine the diagnosis. This can be done individually or as a group.


After your students have completed the quiz, ask them to share their answers with the class. Ask each student or group to give their rationale as to why they chose the diagnosis they did.

Disorder Clues

This disorder is a group of progressive, ultimately fatal motor neuron diseases. Early symptoms include muscle weakness, twitching, and eventual paralysis in the hands and feet. Unlike other neurodegenerative disorders, this disorder generally does not affect cognition or personality.

Symptoms gradually spread as patients lose strength and the ability to move, speak, and eat. Most patients die within three to five years after symptoms appear due to nerve damage affecting the respiratory muscles. However, 10 percent of patients with this disorder — like the physicist Stephen Hawking — survive 10 years or more.


Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)



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