Understanding Functional Neurology
Functional Neurology provides a new way at approaching treatment of the nervous system. Instead of examining nervous system function in black and white terms with optimal neurological function being on one end of the spectrum and diseases and injuries such as stroke and tumors being on the other end, Functional Neurology looks at dysfunction in the nervous system as something that can be corrected.
A key concept in understanding our approach to treating brain injury is neuroplasticity. Nerve connections in the brain are considered plastic, because they can be shaped or modified by sensory, motor, cognitive or emotional input. Simply put, what you experience can rewire your nervous system.
The basic unit of the nervous system is a nerve cell called a neuron. There exists more than 100 billion neurons in the human body, each one having a specific function and connection to other neurons, forming extensive electro-chemical circuits and highways of communication.
While this system was once considered fixed, we now know that this vast collection of nerve cells is capable of remarkable change. For example, by repetitively firing a pathway from one neuron to another, we can expect an increase in the number of chemical messengers (neurotransmitters) produced by the “talking” neuron as well as an increase in the number of receptors on the “listening” neuron. Furthermore, a nerve cell can grow connections to new neurons (synaptogenesis) and can even extend to far reaching areas (neuronal migration). This is essentially how we learn a new skill and why practice makes perfect.
In the developing brain, as well as in the adult, research has confirmed that we have the ability to create new neurons (neurogenesis), a process long considered impossible. It is now also known that if an area of the nervous system is damaged, not only is regeneration achievable, but other nerve cells can take over the function of the lost neurons (functional reorganization). For example, a person who has suffered a stroke in the language center of the brain may still regain the ability to speak.
A basic premise of Functional Neurology is to support healthy plasticity of the nervous system through proper stimulation and fuel. Treatment is aimed at not only protecting the nervous system but giving it the activation that it needs to thrive. We now know that even a nervous system that is functioning poorly can be rehabilitated with progressive and long-lasting success.