Functional neurology

March 22, 2017


Functional neurology

Natural Standard Monograph, Copyright © 2013 (www.naturalstandard.com). Commercial distribution prohibited. This monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. You should consult with a qualified healthcare provider before making decisions about therapies and/or health conditions.

Related Terms

  • Brain, nerves, neurology, spinal cord, stimuli.


  • Functional neurology is a modality that aims to integrate all of the brain's sensory activities in order to treat a variety of clinical and subclinical symptoms. This modality draws from a number of complementary and alternative health therapies. Advocates claim that correcting neurological problems and restoring functionality in the body may be possible by participating in a variety of exercises whose aim is neurological integration. These exercises involve specific forms of or exposure to movement, scent, sound, light, and touch. Drugs and surgery are not a part of this modality. All treatments occur in a practitioner's office.

  • Functional neurology combines applied kinesiology and chiropractic neurology. Applied kinesiology (AK) is a technique that uses muscle testing with the aim to diagnose nutritional deficiencies and health problems. It is based on the concept that weakness in certain muscles corresponds to specific disease states or body imbalances. AK practitioners may diagnose organ dysfunction, energy blockage, or allergies (including those to foods and drugs). Edukinesthesia is a type of AK that is used to detect the cause of learning difficulties and poor concentration. Chiropractic neurology focuses on the idea that certain body movements, as well as cognitive and musculoskeletal tasks may be difficult if a person's brain is not "integrated". Advocates claim that when the body's neurological processes are not integrated, the brain does not function as one unit. Because of this, the patient experiences a variety of symptoms as a result of this lack of neurological coordination. Treatment consists of exercises and tasks intended to exercise and retrain the patient's nervous system to function in a healthier manner.

  • Functional neurology has its origin in a variety of chiropractic techniques, many of which deal with the nervous system. The modality also incorporates ideas of the acupuncture meridian system, which are the lines of energy that direct all of the body's function in the traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) system of health and healing. Further, functional neurology has been influenced by other areas of biomedical study, including embryology, neurology, neuroanatomy, neurophysiology, neuropsychology, psychology, cellular biology, biochemistry, and genetics.

  • Individuals seek functional neurology for a variety of conditions, including autism, Asperger's syndrome, attention deficit disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, Tourette's syndrome, dyslexia, dyscalculia, strabismus, brain injury, vertigo, motion sickness, dizziness, resting intention tremors, Parkinson's disease, and Parkinsonian syndromes. In addition, advocates claim that functional neurology may treat subclinical symptoms and syndromes.

  • More information is needed before a firm conclusion can be drawn.

  • Functional neurology may offer a less expensive alternative to the medications, procedures, and other types of treatments usually given in conventional medicine.


  • 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.


  • 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.


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

Author Information

  • This information has been edited and peer-reviewed by contributors to the Natural Standard Research Collaboration (www.naturalstandard.com).


Natural Standard developed the above evidence-based information based on a thorough systematic review of the available scientific articles. For comprehensive information about alternative and complementary therapies on the professional level, go to www.naturalstandard.com. Selected references are listed below.

  1. Bastianello S. The establishment of the International Functional Neurology Society (IFNS). Funct Neurol. 2007 Jan-Mar;22(1):7.View Abstract

  2. Functional Neurology Journal. www.functionalneurology.it

  3. Moldovanu I, Vovc V. A possible paradigm of functional neurology. Funct Neurol. 1998 Oct-Dec;13(4):305-10.View Abstract

  4. Nappi G, Spano P, Blandini F, Memo M. Functional neurology at the dawn of the third millennium: the translation of neuroscience into neurology. Funct Neurol. 2002 Jan-Mar;17(1):5-6.View Abstract

  5. U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC). www.cdc.gov

Copyright © 2013 Natural Standard (www.naturalstandard.com)

The information in this monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. Information is based on review of scientific research data, historical practice patterns, and clinical experience. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions.


March 22, 2017