My name is Dr. Henry Zaremba DC. Working at Red Tail Wellness has been a dream come true for me! I am excited to be a part of the cutting-edge healthcare that is being provided in this practice. I want to focus on one particular aspect of our practice: Functional Neurology. I thought I would take this opportunity to define what functional neurology is, as well as the principles that shape it.
The primary job for our nervous system is threefold: 1) It takes information in, 2) integrates that information, and 3) generates an output in response. In order to gain an understanding of the principles that govern the function of the nervous system, we must first study the smallest functional unit of the system: the neuron.
Neurons are the building blocks of your brain, spinal cord, and peripheral nerves. Like other cells of the body, they require oxygen and fuel (glucose) in order to maintain a healthy state and function appropriately. Neurons also require stimulation from other neurons through electrical signals called action potentials. These action potentials are how information is shared between nerves. Proper stimulation along with adequate oxygen and glucose provide the neuron with the environment and tools necessary to maintain healthy function. A decrease or loss of any of these factors can compromise a neuron’s ability to conduct action potentials and do its job.
The Central Integrated State (CIS) of a neuron (or a group of neurons) is the likelihood of that particular neuron (or group) to generate an action potential, based on the total input received. Essentially, the CIS is how responsive or ‘awake’ a neuron system is at any given point in time. Neuronal systems with a higher CIS make changes at the cellular level to allow the cell to conduct more action potentials in a more efficient manner. Systems or individual neurons that have a lower CIS often undergo a process known as Transneural Degeneration.
Transneural Degeneration occurs when a neuron does not receive adequate levels of stimulus, oxygen, or glucose to maintain a healthy CIS. This process involves cellular changes to the neurons of a system where they become less adept at conducting action potentials. This property can be simplified to ‘if you don’t use it, you lose it’. This can lead to functional lesions of the nervous system, where the pathways are still present, but functioning at a less than appropriate level. Over time, functional lesions put unsustainable stress on a neuron or group of neurons and can lead to named conditions like Alzheimer’s/Dementia or Parkinson’s. These concepts are closely linked with another property of our nervous system called neuroplasticity.
Neuroplasticity is defined as changes to the nervous system as a response to changes in our internal or external environment. This principle is the main mechanism through which our brains and nervous system can learn and adapt. Neurons and neuronal systems that receive more input, undergo changes to improve their ability to conduct action potentials. Neuroplasticity is how we can adjust future responses based on previous responses and the outcomes they create. This mechanism is the driving principle behind Functional Neurology examination and therapy procedures. If the brain can learn dysfunction, the same property that mediates this process enables the brain to be re-educated, or re-wired for more optimal function. This often involves reversing transneural degeneration and increasing the central integrated state of the affected pathways or neuroanatomical structures.
To put this into context, consider for example Parkinson’s disease. This is a neurodegenerative disorder that primarily affects dopamine-producing neurons in an area of the brainstem called the substantia nigra. This leads to a deficiency in a neurotransmitter called dopamine, which presents as movement disorders, balance problems, and cognitive symptoms like inattention, anger and self-deprecation. Early signs like loss of sense of smell can present years before severe symptoms begin to develop since It is the result of transneural degeneration on a large scale. This process happens slowly, however, it is reversible if something is done early on. By selectively stimulating different parts of the brainstem we can use neuroplasticity to prevent or decrease the loss in dopamine and therefore prevent or slow the progression of Parkinson’s. Patients showing early signs of Parkinson’s can benefit from this type of care to the degree of never developing the disease at all but no matter how long you have had the diagnosis or have been suffering you may still benefit from addressing the root cause!
This same approach can also be applied for Autism Spectrum Disorders, Post Concussion Syndrome, Migraine headaches, and virtually any other chronic neurologic disorder. We work with our patients to investigate and address the underlying causes of their condition. Neurodegenerative disorders, like Parkinson’s, are often the result of multiple causes including metabolic, neurologic, and auto-immune. At Red Tail Wellness we are uniquely positioned to address any and all of these causes, resulting in the best outcomes for our patients.
Upcoming FREE Lecture Schedule
- Autoimmmune Conditions and the Functional Medicine approach – October 11th at 6:00pm
- Thyroid Conditions – the myths, the truths, & the relief! – October 18th at 6:00pm OR October 18th at 10:00am
- Functional Neurology – Supporting the aging brain – October 25th at 6:00pm OR October 26th at 10:00am
Space is LIMITED so please give us a call to reserve your seat today!
Yours in health,
Henry Zaremba, DC (pictured center)