Facts About MND

Motor Neurone Disease (MND) is the name of a group of diseases that cause the death of the nerve cells (neurones) that control the muscles that enable us to move, speak, swallow and breathe. With no nerves to activate them, these muscles gradually weaken and waste away. This causes progressive loss of mobility in the limbs, and difficulties with speech, swallowing and breathing. The progression varies significantly from person to person. The most common type of MND is Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, or ALS. In some countries, including North America, MND is called ALS.

Motor Neurone Disease (MND) is the name given to a group of closely related disorders which affect the motor neurones.  Motor neurones are nerve cells which control the voluntary movement of muscles.

Upper motor neurones run from the brain to the brainstem or spinal cord to connect with lower motor neurones.  Lower motor neurones then travel out to connect with the muscles for swallowing, chewing, tongue movement, facial expression, breathing, coughing and limb movement.

Degeneration of the motor neurones result in progressive muscle wasting and weakness because the nerve supply to the muscles is impaired.

  • MND is an uncommon, but by no means rare disease.
  • In New Zealand approximately 400 people are living with MND at any one time.
  • MND affects people from all communities.
  • MND can affect adults at any age but most people diagnosed with MND are over the age of 40, with the highest incidence occurring between the ages of 50 and 70.
  • Slightly more men than women get MND.
  • A person’s lifetime risk of developing MND is up to 1 in 300.
  • Most people with MND live for 20 to 48 months after symptoms begin. Five to ten percent of people with MND live for ten years or more.
  • Each week MND will cause the death of 2 people in New Zealand.
  • In approx. 90% of cases there is no known family history.
  • In approx. 10% of cases the disease is known to be inherited.
  • Around 15% of people with MND eventually show signs of frontotemporal dementia.

For more information, please download a PDF of our booklet, MND: Some Facts. If you or someone you care for has MND, you can request a print version of this booklet from your support team member.

For up-to-date information about what we currently know about the causes of MND, please see What Causes MND?

For current information about research towards a cure for MND, please see our Research Resources.