Findings in New Book, Neurology in Migrants and Refugees, Presented at the World Congress of Neurology 2021, Raising Awareness on Neurological Issues Facing Migrants and Refugees 

October 7, 2021 — Medical professionals around the world now have a new resource to help them understand the challenges of treating and caring for migrants and refugees with neurological problems, thanks to a new book authored by a Specialty Group of neurologists and neuroscientists under the auspices of the World Federation of Neurology (WFN). 

Neurology in Migrants and Refugees, which is a part of the WHO’s Sustainable Development Goals series, discusses the scientific and epidemiological data of neurological diseases in migrants. It provides practical guidelines for the diagnosis and treatment of these diseases and examines the relationship between immigration and neurological diseases in migrants and refugees. 

The leaders of the WFN Migrant Neurology Specialty Group reported a wide range of impacts facing migrants based on years of research on the neurological care and treatment of migrants from all corners of the world to attendees of the World Congress of Neurology (WCN) on October 6, 2021.

Lead by Mustapha El Alaoui-Faris, professor of neurology and neuropsychology at the Mohammed-V University and director of the Alzheimer’s Center of Rabat, Morocco; Antonio Federico, professor of neurology at the University of Siena, Italy; and Wolfgang Grisold, professor of neurology at the Medical University of Vienna, Austria and secretary-general of the World Federation of Neurology, the group’s top findings include:

  • Certain types of neurological diseases and disorders disproportionately affect migrants. 
  • Many migrants from Sub-Saharan Africa experience neurological complications as a result of AIDs. 
  • In North Africa, there are high rates of cases of movement disorders such as Parkinson’s disease. Cases of epilepsy are common in Latin American migrants. 
  • Understanding the reasons for these commonalities helps advance treatment for migrants and broaden our understanding of these diseases. 


Neurology in Migrants and Refugees also reports on the impact of specific neurological diseases on migrants including cerebrovascular diseases, epilepsy, dementia, movement disorders, multiple sclerosis, headache, stroke and functional and mental disorders. 

  • The neurological manifestation of COVID-19 in ethnic minorities and palliative care in migrants. 
  • Details of major barriers to medical care facing migrants and refugees. 
  • The language barrier between medical professionals and migrant patients. 


“If you have a patient with epileptic seizures, for example, who is a migrant and doesn’t speak the same language as their doctor, it can be difficult to separate neurological manifestations from psychological ones. So accurately diagnosing and treating migrants becomes difficult due to lack of communication,” Alaoui-Faris explained.

Neurology in Migrants and Refugees also sheds light on migrants’ difficulties accessing quality medical treatment. The majority lack medical insurance and can’t afford medication or hospitalisation. There can also be cultural barriers. Some may choose not to go to the hospital or see a doctor because the expectations for assistance and care differ, based on their cultures and experience. Cultural barriers are often exacerbated by language barriers. 

“This book will be useful for clinicians, neurologists and also the world’s policy makers and elected leaders to develop policies for good health for everyone—especially migrating people. It will help focus the issues facing migrants and refugees as they seek medical care, especially for neurological diseases,” said Federico.

Alaoui-Faris, Federico and other contributors hope Neurology in Migrants and Refugees will open minds to the problem of migration and the major barriers migrants face when trying to access medical care, ultimately attracting the attention of policymakers and governmental organizations around the world and serving as a tool for neurologists to use when treating migrants for neurological problems. Neurology in Migrants and Refugees will be released in November 2021. To pre-order a copy, please visit:


About the World Congress of Neurology

The World Federation of Neurology’s World Congress of Neurology brings together leading neuroscientists and public health experts to turn research into action and emphasise the importance of brain health across the globe. The 25th Biennial conference occurred virtually from October 3 to 7, 2021, and was organised in association with the Italian Society of Neurology (SIN). 

About the World Federation of Neurology

The World Federation of Neurology represents 122 neurological member societies around the globe to foster quality neurology and brain health worldwide by promoting neurological education and training with an emphasis on under-resourced areas of the world. WFN supports the spread of research and clinical information in the pursuit of improvements in the field of neurology. With support from member organizations around the globe, WFN unites the world to allow patients greater access to brain health. For more information, please visit the WCN 2021 website at, find our live stream press conferences on Facebook at, on Twitter at or by searching using the tag #WCN2021.