Neuropsychology

Type of psychology: Biological bases of behavior Fields of study: Behavioral and cognitive models; cognitive processes; nervous system; organic disorders

Neuropsychology is the study of the relationship between the brain and behavior. It has provided insights into the workings of the normal brain as well as innovations fordi-agnosing and assisting individuals with an injury to or disease of the brain.

Key concepts

• assessment

• rehabilitation

Neuropsychology is the study of the relationships between the brain and behavior. More fully, it is the study of both human and animal cerebral organization as it relates to behavior. Considerable attention is directed toward investigating the workings of both healthy and damaged neural systems; specifically, there is interest in obtaining a more complete understanding of disorders of language, perception, and motor action. The field of neuropsychology can be divided into a number of specialty areas. The discussion which follows will concentrate on experimental neuropsychology and clinical neuropsychology. While this distinction is not absolute, it serves to classify the types of work in which neuropsychologists are involved.

Brain Lesions

Clinical neuropsychology refers to the study of individuals who have lesions of the brain. These lesions are often produced by tumors, cerebral vascular accidents (strokes), or trauma (for example, an automobile crash). The clinical neuropsychologist is heavily involved in the assessment of cognitive deficits brought on by these brain lesions. By evaluating the patient's performance on a variety of paper-and-pencil tests, the neuropsychologist can make valuable diagnostic inferences. The clinician can begin to develop hypotheses concerning the location, extent, and severity of the lesion.

Similarly, an attempt is made to discern the functional significance of the brain lesion on the patient. Damage to the same part of the brain may affect two individuals very differently. Because of this fact, it is vital that the clinical neuropsychologist assess the effect of the lesion on the patient's daily functioning at work, at home, and in social contexts as well as the relatively artificial environment of the testing room. Furthermore, it is important that evaluation consider the patient's current strengths in addition to weaknesses or impairments. Intact abilities can assist the patient in coping and compensating for the loss of some other function.

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