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Emory ALS Center

 The EMORY ALS Center is designed and dedicated to providing comprehensive care for people and families with ALS and related motor neuron diseases. Emory is recognized nationally as an ALS referral center by both the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) and the ALS Association. Since its initiation in 1997, the Emory ALS Center has grown to be one of the premier centers for ALS care in the United States. In addition, Emory has been selected by the MDA as one of five national centers as part of a Clinical Research Network to speed and support ALS research.

Our ALS Center Team includes physicians, nurses and other healthcare specialists who approach ALS as a challenge that requires physical, social, and emotional care of the patient and the family. Our Team includes professionals in respiratory care, swallowing and communication, nutrition, and physical and occupational therapy. Other team members are a clinical social worker, specialists in wheelchairs and orthotics, and a representative from Hospice. In addition, we have major collaborative affiliations with both the MDA and the ALS Association of Georgia, whose organizations provide important and unique resources and services for patients and their families. No less important are our scientists and students who are working in Emory's laboratories and in the clinic on questions focusing on the causes of and potential treatments for ALS. We believe that Emory's team approach to ALS is a model that provides the best in comprehensive care for patients and families in an environment that values research as the best path for fostering hope for an ALS-free future.

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What is ALS?

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) is also known as Motor Neuron Disease, Lou Gehrig's Disease, and Charcot's Disease (in Europe). ALS is a disease of "motor neurons", the cells that initiate and control the movement of muscles. Motor neurons are characterized as "upper" if they originate in the brain, and "lower" if they originate in the spinal cord. ALS affects both upper and lower motor neurons, although each person with ALS has varying amounts of upper and lower motor neuron disease. Upper motor neuron disease causes stiffness, which is called "spasticity". Lower motor neuron disease causes weakness, loss of muscle ("atrophy") and muscle twitching ("fasciculations"). ALS may begin with abnormalities of upper or lower motor neurons. "Bulbar" ALS, also called Progressive Bulbar Palsy, prominently affects the muscles involved in speech, swallowing, and tongue movements.

Primary Lateral Sclerosis (PLS) is a variant of ALS that affects only upper motor neurons. People with PLS have problems with severe stiffness ("spasticity") that may affect their ability to speak, swallow, and walk.

Progressive Muscular Atrophy (PMA) affects only lower motor neurons, causing weakness and loss of muscle bulk ("atrophy").

PLS and PMA are considered variants of ALS, and people with these disorders may progress to develop true ALS.