What is Neuroplasticity/Functional Neurology?
Neuroplasticity is the concept that the brain and central nervous system can create and reorganize cellular connections to create learning and behavioral change.
When we talk about neuroplasticity, we are harnessing the power of the brain and central nervous system to create meaningful change in order to heal and recover from injury and illness. There was a time when it was thought that the brain we are born with is the brain that we will have forever, and there was nothing we could do to change that.
We now know that isn’t true. Through years of research on neurorehabilitation from stroke, brain injury, and other neurological disorders, we now know that the brain can change and adapt to injury through the specific application of exercise and neuromodulation techniques.
This is the core of a Functional Neurology paradigm.
Functional neurology is not a specific treatment program or technique. It is a methodology of taking years of research about how the brain works, and using evidence-based therapies to create adaptive neuroplasticity to help patients restore normal function.
People often ask what is different about being seen from a functional neurology paradigm compared to a medical neurology paradigm. Truthfully, it’s not either/or.
Medical neurology is going to be primarily focused on conditions that have clear signs of pathology. This means at some level, there are tissues in your nervous system that are destroyed or unviable. This often leads to people seeing a neurologist, but if there are no firm findings on an MRI, CT scan, or blood test, then there is no diagnosis to treat.
Functional neurology looks at neurological function on a spectrum. Someone can have enough tissue damage to cause a neurological disease like seen in stroke, Parkinson’s Disease, or Multiple Sclerosis. People can also have signs of neurological dysfunction without a full blown diagnosable disease state. No matter where you are in that spectrum, a functional neurology paradigm will try to improve the way the brain functions in order to help the patient function more normally again.
In this way, its similar to comparing a computer with hardware or software problems. Pathology is like when a physical part of the computer breaks and needs to be repaired or replaced. Software problems are like some functional disorders where something is wrong, but it involves the programming or code in which the computer operates.
What Will a Functional Neurologist Do?
The core of a functional neurology practice is a thorough neurological exam. During this exam, you may find that we are testing many different aspects of brain function that you may not have had done with other doctors. In particular, we place a large focus on:
- Eye movements
- Cranial nerves
- and sensory/motor function
It’s not uncommon for your initial exam to take upwards of 2 hours for the first appointment depending on what condition your are presenting with.
Functional Neurological Therapies
When it comes to treating patients, there isn’t a one size fits all protocol for any condition. Each patient has a customized regiment of different therapies to help target the function of a specific region of the brain that was identified during the examination. Some of these therapies commonly include:
- Vestibular rehabilitation
- Eye movement exercises
- Hand-Eye Coordination Drills
- Movement Training
- Non-invasive Vagus Nerve Stimulation
- Non-invasive trigeminal nerve stimulation
- Low level laser therapy
Even if you have had one or more of these interventions done before, the secret to functional neurology is the way in which these therapies are applied. Our approach means that each patient will have these therapies targeted towards their specific condition and their specific tolerance to therapy.