Functional Neurology has developed from basic neuroscience principles and an understanding of how the most recent scientific research can be applied to patient care. Through careful assessment, a Functional Neurologist can not only determine which areas of a person’s nervous system are weak, but also devise an appropriate strategy to improve the quality of how their nervous system functions. The man often credited with the origin of this premise is Dr. Ted Carrick, who has been researching and teaching this model since the mid-1970s.
A key concept in understanding this approach is “neuroplasticity”. Nerve connections in the brain are considered “plastic” because they can be shaped or modified by sensory, motor, cognitive or emotional experiences. Simply put, what you are exposed to can rewire your nervous system.
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 of the language centers of the brain may still regain the ability to speak.
It is important to note that neuroplasticity can also develop negative consequences. If an area of the brain is not stimulated or if a neuronal pathway is not fired, neurotransmitters and receptors may diminish, connections between distant neurons may be withdrawn and nerve cells may eventually die. The saying, “use it or lose it”, is indeed, a neurological fact.
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, often with progressive and permanent results.