What classifies as a neurological disorder?

From recurring headaches to epilepsy, infants and children may sometimes suffer from a neurological disorder. Proper diagnosis, appropriate treatment and lifestyle modifications are important steps to help a child to feel better.

Neurological disorders are caused by multiple factors and affect a child’s growing brain. Some examples of more common neurological disorders are:1

  • Persistent headaches or migraines
  • Developmental and motor problems
  • Stroke
  • Tourette’s syndrome
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Autism

Some conditions are caused by genetic factors, others by injury or illness – others have causes that are still unclear.1*

Reasons to be concerned

One reason childhood neurological disorders are such a concern is that a child’s nervous system, their brain and spinal cord, is still developing. The more common disorders affect several hundreds of thousands of children.2 Fortunately, with proper diagnosis and treatment, many of these conditions can be successfully managed so a child can successfully grow to adulthood.

Neurological disorders in adults

While the presence of gastrointestinal dysmotility, vomiting and gastro-oesophageal reflux is well documented in children with neurological disorders,3,4 there is comparably little data pertaining to feeding intolerance in adults with neurological disorders.

In a retrospective audit of patients with long-term neurological disorders, 28% of adult patients (17/60) with neurological disorders had documented evidence of intolerance to enteral feeding, which was not attributable to infection or other diagnoses.5

The important role of nutrition

While diagnosis and treatment will be specific to each condition, one common factor in addressing these conditions is nutrition.

For example, in the case of cerebral palsy, a condition where the part of the brain that is damaged can lead to impaired motor development. An assessment of the nutritional requirements and the means of ingestion are important, as normal eating may be difficult.6

At Nestlé Health Science, we are concerned with this and many other childhood and adult conditions. We are actively developing nutritional management strategies to address the needs of both young and older patients to improve their quality of life.


  1. John Hopkins Medicine. Neurology and neurosurgery. Available at: http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/neurology_neurosurgery/centers_clinics/pediatric-neurology/conditions/index.html. Accessed November 2018.
  2. Quitadamo P et al. Eur J Paediatric Neurol 2016; 20(6): 810–815.
  3. Sullivan PB et al. Dev Med Child Neurol 2000; 42(10): 674–680.
  4. Parry S. How prevalent are gastrointestinal problems in the long-term feeding of patients with a neurological condition? Poster MON-P098. ESPEN Congress 2016.
  5. Wittenbrook W. Nutritional assessment and intervention in cerebral palsy. Available at: https://med.virginia.edu/ginutrition/wp-content/uploads/sites/199/2014/06/WittenbrookArticle.pdf. Accessed November 2018.
  6. Kuzawa CW et al. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 2014; 111(36): 13010–5.

Footnotes and abbreviations:
*Listed symptoms are not all inclusive; actual patient symptoms may vary.

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Activities for the brain


The environment experienced by babies and young children, especially during their first few years, is likely to have a strong impact on the way their brains develop for the rest of their lives. Simple things like speaking and reading to a young child can help stimulate the brain’s development.

Diagnosing neurological disorders


Problems with the brain in young children can be especially difficult to diagnose, as it is more difficult for a young child to clearly explain symptoms and feelings that might point to a probable cause of the problem. Fortunately, doctors specialised in paediatric neurology are equipped to explore all of the possible reasons that a child might experience certain symptoms indicative of a neurological disorder.

Nutrition and the brain


The adult brain uses around 20 percent of an average person’s resting metabolic rate, and for children it is even more. The amount of energy their brains use increases from birth until just before puberty, reaching a peak of around 43 percent.1 Therefore, getting sufficient nutrition to power the growing brain’s energy use is important in infancy and childhood.

  1. https://www.sciencenews.org/blog/growth-curve/hungry-brain-slurps-kid%E2%80%99s-energy. Accessed December 2014.