Functional neurological disorder: new subtypes and shared mechanisms

Lancet Neurol. 2022 Jun;21(6):537-550. doi: 10.1016/S1474-4422(21)00422-1. Epub 2022 Apr 14.


Functional neurological disorder is common in neurological practice. A new approach to the positive diagnosis of this disorder focuses on recognisable patterns of genuinely experienced symptoms and signs that show variability within the same task and between different tasks over time. Psychological stressors are common risk factors for functional neurological disorder, but are often absent. Four entities-functional seizures, functional movement disorders, persistent perceptual postural dizziness, and functional cognitive disorder-show similarities in aetiology and pathophysiology and are variants of a disorder at the interface between neurology and psychiatry. All four entities have distinctive features and can be diagnosed with the support of clinical neurophysiological studies and other biomarkers. The pathophysiology of functional neurological disorder includes overactivity of the limbic system, the development of an internal symptom model as part of a predictive coding framework, and dysfunction of brain networks that gives movement the sense of voluntariness. Evidence supports tailored multidisciplinary treatment that can involve physical and psychological therapy approaches.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Brain
  • Conversion Disorder* / diagnosis
  • Conversion Disorder* / therapy
  • Humans
  • Seizures