Neurological conditions are among the leading causes of disability in the Canadian population and are associated with a large public health burden. An increase in life expectancy and a declining birth rate has resulted in an aging Canadian population, and the proportion of age-adjusted mortality due to non-communicable diseases has been steadily increasing. These conditions are frequently associated with chronic disability and an increasing burden of care for patients, their families and caregivers. The National Population Health Study of Neurological Conditions (NPHSNC) aims to improve knowledge about neurological conditions and their impacts on individuals, their families, caregivers and health care system. The Systematic Review of Determinants of Neurological Conditions, a specific objective within the NPHSNC, is a compendium of systematic reviews on risk factors affecting onset and progression of the following 14 priority neurological conditions: Alzheimer's disease (AD), amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), brain tumours (BT), cerebral palsy (CP), dystonia, epilepsy, Huntington's disease (HD), hydrocephalus, multiple sclerosis (MS), muscular dystrophies (MD), neurotrauma, Parkinson's disease (PD), spina bifida (SB), and Tourette's syndrome (TS). The burden of neurological disease is expected to increase as the population ages, and this trend is presented in greater detail for Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease because the incidence of these two common neurological diseases increases significantly with age over 65 years. This article provides an overview of burden of neurological diseases in Canada to set the stage for the in-depth systematic reviews of the 14 priority neurological conditions presented in subsequent articles in this issue.