As their power and utility increase, genome-wide association (GWA) studies are poised to become an important element of the neurosurgeon's toolkit for diagnosing and treating disease. In this paper, the authors review recent findings and discuss issues associated with gathering and analyzing GWA data for the study of neurological diseases and disorders, including those of neurosurgical importance. Their goal is to provide neurosurgeons and other clinicians with a better understanding of the practical and theoretical issues associated with this line of research. A modern GWA study involves testing hundreds of thousands of genetic markers across an entire genome, often in thousands of individuals, for any significant association with a particular disease. The number of markers assayed in a study presents several practical and theoretical issues that must be considered when planning the study. Genome-wide association studies show great promise in our understanding of the genes underlying common neurological diseases and disorders, as well as in leading to a new generation of genetic tests for clinicians.