Neuroplasticity: Hope for the Hopeless with Dr. Angela Gabella, Functional Neurologist


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By Mariah Morgan & Eryn Martin, Mariah Morgan, and Eryn Martin. Discovered by Player FM and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Player FM, and audio is streamed directly from their servers. Hit the Subscribe button to track updates in Player FM, or paste the feed URL into other podcast apps.

Our brains are truly remarkable organs!! They are what make us unique! It provides the connections needed to support all our body functions, thoughts, personality, and well-being. Their complexity and highly individualized nature are what make it the most misunderstood organ. There is no medicine or one size fits all approach to treatment which makes it a poor fit for traditional medicine. Today, we learn all about functional neurology, a field that truly explores each individual’s unique neuronal responses to provide personalized treatment. Dr. Angela Gabella DC, DACNB, FABBIR gives us an introduction to the field and how it can help you. She gives us hope by reminding us that symptoms like anxiety, depression, confusion, inattention, insomnia, and more are treatable; even if it was something you struggled with pre-injury!! You cannot miss this one!!!! It is one of our most fascinating episodes yet!

Topics covered in this episode:

  • What is Functional Neurology (FN)?
  • A treatment of the whole person
  • A functional neurologists goes in depth doing a complete physical exam to see how your neurons were affected by your brain injury
  • They dig to find what the symptoms are and where they originate from
  • So many of us have scans that look normal but still have symptoms. They look beyond the scans
  • Neuroplasticity: concept has been around but not commonly accepted until recently and remains controversial
  • Early 1900s: Santiago Ramon y Cajal, the father of neuroscience-coined the neuron doctrine, Nobel Prize winner, his ideas weren’t accepted
  • 2016: Michael Merzenich, a neuroscientist out University of California San Francisco won a prize related to neuroplasticity which made the idea of the brain being able to change more commonly accepted
  • This is a new field with many clinical applications yet to be found
  • The field of neuroplasticity gives hope to those of us with brain injury
  • Why is neuroplasticity hard for the science community to accept?
  • The brain is still a highly unknown organ with many complexities.
  • The science is ongoing. It’s behind other organ systems. Clinical applications are still being developed
  • It is really difficult to be specific with medication. There is no easy fix.
  • POTS: Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome
  • Increased heart rate with standing up that causes you to pass out
  • People get stuck in bed with this not being treated. Greatly limits mobility
  • Seen in some brain injury patients.
  • Covid is correlated with an increased risk of POTS
  • Dr. Gabella explains a normal autonomic response to position changes
  • More common in young healthy females.
  • It can be idiopathic meaning there is no easy answer for what caused it
  • Need to consider what is going on in the blood and crossing the blood brain barrier. For example when you are sick, is something crossing into the brain that shouldn’t be?
  • What is treatment like?
  • Tilt table: diagnostic test but can also be used as therapy
  • Throughout the different degrees of tilt, the FN measures your BP and heart rate responses and either activates your parasympathetic or sympathetic nervous system to get the correct response. Once you respond appropriately, they change the position of the tilt
  • Can take a few to many treatments. The longer you have have had the dysautonomic response, the longer it takes to treat.
  • Females are more susceptible as they have more neuronal connections with a more complex hormonal system. Also females’ necks are less stable with different vasculature and muscular structures.
  • FN= individualized care
  • Traditional medicine operates on gold standards, protocols, and expected responses
  • With neuronal injury, we all respond differently meaning we need a practitioner who has the time and knowledge to make a personalized treatment plan
  • FN looks for what modality will work best based on which areas are damaged and which areas are still good. They create neuroplasticity pathways to create positive connections.
  • Even if the 2 people have a stroke or brain injury in the exact same spot, the 2 people will respond differently. Recovery relies on activating surrounding neurons to build new connections.
  • How do you know you need FN? Look at the symptoms:
  • Headaches
  • Migraines
  • Pressure in the head
  • I don’t feel right
  • Difficulty concentrating or remembering
  • Fatigue
  • Sleep and insomnia
  • Confusion
  • Brain fog
  • Feeling slowed down
  • Sensitivity to noise, sound, light
  • Dizziness: lightheaded, feeling like you’re rocking or swaying
  • Nausea, vomiting
  • Depression: if you have been treated by medication and it hasn’t gotten better, see FN. FN can test if depression is from a brain abnormality or psych. Some people absolutely need psych and medications but others need brain treatment
  • If you have brain dysfunction that causes depression you will see gait, arm swing, trouble walking and concentrating on a task
  • Concussion survivors have a high likelihood of depression
  • Anxiety
  • Cognitive slips, losing your train of thought
  • You could have these symptoms prior to brain injury but the brain injury was the thing that pushed you over the edge making your normal compensatory measures ineffective--FN can help!
  • What does FN treatment look like?
  • It’s noninvasive
  • Eye movement measures
  • Vestibular stimulation provided by a clinician
  • Electric stimulation
  • Finding the right sensory system and activating or calming it down to address the symptoms
  • Brain health tips
  • Brain cells need glucose and oxygen.
  • Brain cells do not store glucose, need to snack on high quality food sources frequently.
  • Take 5 minute rests: use a breathing app or meditation app. Your brain needs those moments of rest.
  • Cannot just push through!!
  • The question many of us grapple with: Is this just your baseline and who you are now? Most likely it is not and you can be treated!!
  • You don’t need to feel helpless or hopeless
  • Finding a FN
  • Dr. Carrick, founder of the field of functional neurology. Clinicians trained at the Carrick Institute received top-notch education
  • Fellow of the American College of Functional Neurology (FACFN), a generalist
  • Fellow of the American Board of Brain Injury and Rehabilitation (FABIR), more specified to to brain injuries
  • Dr. Gabella: Precision Brain Center Raleigh, NC--many resources on what FN can treat

Links to any resources mentioned:


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