Functional neurology Practice, Theory, and Evidence


A qualified healthcare provider should be consulted before making decisions about therapies and/or health conditions.


Functional neurology does not use medications or surgeries to treat neurologically related conditions. Rather, the treatments are intended to integrate brain functioning and retrain the parts of the nervous system that may be malfunctioning. The patient actively participates in this treatment by completing clinical exercises and providing the clinician with feedback on what works in the treatment and what may need further adjustment.
Functional neurologists consider the nervous system to consist of three parts. The sensory and motor functions, which recognize and respond to one's orientation in time and space, is the first part of this system. The second component is the parasympathetic system, which controls cognitive, sleep, immune, digestive, hormonal, and sexual functions. The sympathetic system, which reacts to challenges or threats, is the third part of this system.
Functional neurologists believe that brain and movement disorders occur when these three parts are not properly integrated with one another. This lack of coordination is thought to cause the patient's symptoms
Functional neurologists also believe that the division of the brain into two halves and the unequal distribution of abilities assigned to each half may create conditions where hemispheric imbalance may occur. In these cases, one hemisphere of the brain dominates or overrides the other. Hemispheric imbalances are thought to contribute to or result in a variety of problems resulting from a dysfunctional immune system; examples include chronic inflammation and autoimmune diseases. Other problems contributing to or resulting from hemispheric imbalance include learning disabilities, attention deficit disorder, affective disorders, emotional disorders, complex regional pain syndrome, and dysautonomia.
Through the evaluation by the practitioner, the body, brain, and spinal cord are evaluated to locate the epicenter of the patient's signs and symptoms. The practitioner also evaluates the patient for the degree of integration among the functions and responsibilities of the body, brain, and spinal cord. Clues as to the integration of all of the body's nerves include the reflex activity of muscles, the activity of cranial nerves, responses to stimuli, and tonic activation levels. Internal stimulation by mental functioning and conducting memory exercises may also assist in the integration. Treatments aim to stimulate various pathways in order to restore the functional state of a latent area or to subdue areas that may be overly dominant.
Each patient is considered to possess neurological strengths and weaknesses. Functional neurology takes these attributes into account in the design and implementation of its treatment plans.


Most treatments begin with a physical, functional, and neurological examination. The doctor examines the body and may ask the patient to complete a series of tasks; this evaluation provides clues as to the type of treatment that will be most beneficial. The information from the exam is also used to track the progress of the patient and the effectiveness of the treatment.
An evaluation may involve testing and diagnostic equipment, including neuropsychological testing instruments, instruments for monitoring neural responses, muscle strength testing instruments, testing for visually evoked potentials, visual kinetic tracking, quantitative electroencephalography (or brain mapping), visuomotor testing, MRI scans, PET scans, and computerized balance platforms. The practitioner may also observe pupil reactions to light, take blood pressure on both sides of the body, or determine whether there is a temperature difference between the forehead and the limbs. The tools used for evaluation depend on the patient's presenting symptoms and medical history.
The practitioner assesses the patient's particular neurological strengths and weaknesses. This evaluation may not have an equivalent in conventional neurology, in which the brain or its parts are classified as healthy as long as they are functional. A treatment plan involving any number of exercises is then implemented to help the patient. Functional neurology considers each person's nervous system to be a unique entity, and this system of medicine may consider a set of similar symptoms in two different patients to have different origins. To this extent, the practitioner creates a new treatment protocol based on the needs of each individual patient.