What is Functional Neurology?
Functional neurology (also known as chiropractic neurology) is a term used by an emerging new discipline that is being used to help various neurological and brain-based conditions. Even though its applications and principles have been practiced for generations, functional neurology as a health care discipline is a relatively new concept. In recent years it has gained significant momentum and wide acceptance as a proactive brain performance strategy and a powerful treatment option for disorders of the nervous system. Now, the practice of functional neurology spans multiple disciplines including: chiropractic, psychology, conventional medicine, optometry, audiology, and physical and occupational therapies. Functional Neurology is built off the idea of neuroplasticity.
What is Neuroplasticity?
Neuroplasticity is the brain’s amazing capacity to change and adapt regardless of the circumstances. It refers to the physiological changes in the brain that happen as the result of our interactions with our environment. From the time the brain begins to develop in utero until the day we die, the connections among the cells in our brains reorganize in response to our changing needs. This dynamic process allows us to learn from and adapt to different experiences.
Neuroplasticity is how you were able to learn and get good at everything that you’ve done in your life– from walking, to riding your bike, to playing a musical instrument, to learning how to read, write, speak and understand language. All those things you learned growing up that are now second nature to you happened because of Neuroplasticity.
When you were learning how to walk– all the sensory signals coming in from your muscles and joints and ligaments specifically lit up and connected key neural networks related to balance, coordination and movement. After doing it every single day for months and years, it started to become automatic. That wasn’t muscle memory, that was neuroplasticity.
Our brains are truly extraordinary; unlike computers, which are built to certain specifications and receive software updates periodically, our brains can actually receive hardware updates in addition to software updates. Different pathways form and fall dormant, are created and are discarded, according to our experiences and sensory stimuli.
When we learn something new, we create new connections between our neurons. We rewire our brains to adapt to new circumstances. This happens on a daily basis, but it’s also something that we can encourage and stimulate to help rehabilitate and integrate specific areas of the brain.
Differences between Functional Neurology and Conventional Neurology
The key difference between a Functional Neurologist and a Conventional Medical Neurologist lies primarily in their approaches to treatment. A Conventional Medical Neurologist is typically focused on the diagnosis of structural pathology and utilizes pharmaceutical and surgical interventions to treat disease.
A Functional Neurologist views the nervous system as a moldable, changeable entity that can be affected in its function through virtually unlimited types of environmental stimulation. Functional Neurology has its roots deeply imbedded in the principle of neuroplasticity mentioned in the section above. Our brain thrives off stimulation, so a functional neurologist looks for specific ways he/she can activate specific brain areas.
Stimulation for our brain comes from our classic five senses plus two additional senses:
By utilizing these senses, a trained Functional Neurologist can target specific regions of the brain and brainstem allowing those areas and pathways to become more efficient.
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