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Lou Gehrig's disease, known as Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), is a rapidly progressive, invariably fatal neurological disease that attacks the nerve cells (neurons) responsible for controlling voluntary muscles. Individuals with ALS lose their strength and the ability to move their arms, legs, and body. When muscles in the diaphragm and chest wall fail, individuals lose the ability to breathe without ventilatory support. The disease does not affect a person's ability to see, smell, taste, hear, or recognize touch, and it does not usually impair a person’s thinking or other cognitive abilities. However, several recent studies suggest that a small percentage of patients may experience problems with memory or decision-making, and there is growing evidence that some may even develop a form of dementia. The cause of ALS is not known, and scientists do not yet know why ALS strikes some people and not others. The ability of the brain to start and control voluntary movement is lost The muscles gradually weaken, waste away, and twitch Motor neurons stop sending messages to muscles Both the upper motor neurons and the lower motor neurons degenerate or die Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. www.ninds.nih.gov LifeART Collection Images Copyright © 1989-2001 by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Baltimore, MD Lou Gehrig's Disease