“Functional Neurologist” Reprimanded for Unprofessional Conduct

July 17, 2020

The College of Chiropractors of British Columbia (CCBC) has disciplined Daniel Sullins, D.C., for conduct associated with his practice of “functional neurology.” [1] Sullins, who had operated North Shore Brain Balancing in North Vancouver, for several years, had described himself as a “board-certified functional neurologist” and had claimed that his “brain balancing” could help people with a long list of common symptoms.

A 2011 graduate of Texas-Based Parker College of Chiropractic, he had done business as the Applied Neurology Health Canter in Dallas, Texas, before moving to Canada in 2017. In 2016, that clinic’s Web site stated:

A doctor practicing functional neurology is highly trained in brain based care and the nervous system on a postdoctorate level. This is important to you, the patient, because the brain controls and regulates every action in the body in some way. This type of doctor is especially trained to detect subtle hints at things that are affecting the body in such a way that these subtle, often unnoticed events, may be caught before symptoms appear even.  At Applied Neurology Health Center, we practice only board certified functional neurology dealing with the brain and how it controls the body. . . .

Proper board certified brain care can help with:

ADHD; dyslexia; traumatic brain injury; post stroke rehab; optimized brain function to decrease risk of Alzheimer’s disease; short term memory rehab; speech problems; academic grade level acceleration in school; allergies; arthritis; asthma; back pain; bed-wetting; carpal tunnel; chemical or hormonal imbalance; cold and flu; depression; diabetes; digestive problems; ear and upper respiratory infections; fatigue; fibromyalgia; headaches; heart trouble; heartburn; high blood pressure; hyperactivity; infertility; insomnia; irritable bowel syndrome; irritability; menstrual problems; migraines and cervicogenic headaches; muscle tension; neck pain; osteoporosis; rehabilitations of the neuraxis after comas and strokes; rheumatism; SAD (seasonal affective disorder); severe whiplash; sciatica; sleeping problems; sports injuries and performance; stiffness; thyroid related conditions; vertigo; visual disturbance unhelped elsewhere; and many more! [2].

Sullins’s Linkedin account states that his training in “functional neurology” was obtained at the Carrick Institute for Graduate Studies in Neurology from 2009 through 2012 [3].

In June 2019, the CCBC announced that it had suspended Sullins’s registration while it investigated several concerns [4]. The suspension was lifted in March 2020. In June 2020, the CCBC announced that Dr. Sullins had entered into a consent agreement in which he acknowledged that he had:

  • advertised treatment of conditions for which there was not acceptable evidence of efficacy contrary to the College’s Efficacy Claims Policy
  • advertised treatment of conditions that are not within the scope of practice for chiropractors in BC
  • failed to practice within the scope of practice for chiropractors in BC
  • failed to maintain records in accordance with College standards
  • failed to cooperate with a College inspection
  • advertised using a Groupon coupon
  • practiced while suspended.

Under the agreement, Sullins was reprimanded, fined CN$200, ordered to pay costs of CN$4,000, and have his practiced monitored for four months [1]. He was also required to work within the legal scope of practice, bring his marketing into line with CCBC standards, and maintain required records [5].

Questionable Theories and Practices

Functional neurology, as mainly practiced by chiropractors, is difficult to summarize because its theories are nebulous and its components vary significantly from practitioner to practitioner. RationalWiki describes it as a “rebranding of chiropractic neurology”  spearheaded by Frederick “Ted” Carrick, D.C. [6] Its primary promoter is the Carrick Institute, in Cape Canaveral, Florida, which offers extensive coursework. Certification is provided primarily through two organizations, the American Chiropractic Neurology Board, and the American College of Functional Neurology.

Proponents claim to be able to treat many conditions by diagnosing dysfunctional areas of the brain and improving their function with spinal manipulations, dietary modification, and various exercises characterized as “brain training.” One such procedure—called blind-spot mapping, brain function testing, brain mapping, or “cortical mapping—is claimed to enable chiropractors to determine whether spinal manipulation can correct brain functions [7].

A recent review concluded that “no acceptable evidence on the effect or benefit of functional neurology in relation to various conditions and purported indications for intervention.” [8] Another recent review advised that (a) changes in “brain function” can occur in response to spinal manipulation but are inconsistent, (b) their relevance is unknown, and (c) it is therefore “premature to promote the use of spinal manipulation as a treatment to improve ‘brain function.’” [9]

  1. Action taken against Daniel Sullins. College of Chiropractors of British Columbia, June 29, 2020.
  2. Applied Neurology Health Center home page, archived Oct 24, 2016.
  3. Dr. Daniel Sullins, DC, DACBN. LinkedIn, accessed July 16, 2020.
  4. Action taken against Daniel Sullins. College of Chiropractors of British Columbia, June 18, 2019.
  5. Lindsay B. B.C. Chiropractor who advertised unproven “brain balancing” treatment fined $200. MSN News, July 14, 2020.
  6. Functional neurology. RationalWiki, Dec 12, 2018.
  7. Hall HA. Blind-spot mapping is a worthless procedure. Quackwatch, March 2, 2003.
  8. Meyer A-L, Leboeuf C. Unravelling functional neurology: A review of clinical research articles on the effect or benefit of the functional neurology approach. Chiropractic & Manual Therapies 26:30, 2018.
  9. Meyer A-L and others.Unravelling functional neurology: does spinal manipulation have an effect on the brain?—a systematic literature review. Chiropractic & Manual Therapies 27:60, 2019.