What is neuropsychology?

Neuropsychology is abranch and clinical specialty within psychology, in which two scientific specialties converge:Neurology(1) andPsychologyas such. This discipline focuses on the knowledge of thephysical structure of the brain and the understanding of cognitive processes, mind and the relationship between them in healthy subjects.

In this sense, the object of study of neuropsychology are injuries, damage or incorrect functioning of structures located in the Central Nervous System (CNS) that cause distortions in the cognitive functioning of thehuman brain.

Note: It is necessary to distinguish between the terms neuropsychology andclinical neuropsychology, since the second focuses on those peoplewho have suffered damage to the CNS.

On the other hand, from a practical point of view, neuropsychologystudies higher mental functions, neural basesand how they relate to thinking, executive functions, memory, perception among others, in addition to the constitution of the cerebral cortex.

What are the approaches of neuropsychology?

Neuropsychology works from the following perspectives to study the relationship between the physical and cognitive parts of the brain :

1. Classical neuropsychology

Classical neuropsychology is one of the first disciplines to emerge in the field of neuropsychology and was born from the studies carried out by the Russian doctor and psychologist Alexander Romanovich Luria (2) , in patients with brain damage, managing to reach a connection that relates the results of some tests with the location of brain damage.

In this context, classical neurology consists of the Application of traditional procedures to identify certain brain disorders based on symptoms, considering it as a localizationist and its objective is intervention.

To highlight: The population generally studied by classical neuropsychologists of the time was made up of patients with some type of brain damage, with cognition deficits related to developmental disorders and disorders caused by degenerative diseases linked to old age.

2. Cognitive neuropsychology

Cognitive neuropsychology arises after classical neuropsychology and is dedicated to studying the relationship between brain function and cognitive abilities. Basically it would be the combination of cognitive psychology with neuropsychology.

You should know: This discipline is used to study the consequences of brain damage and the diagnosis of neurodegenerative diseases in the patient, such as Alzheimer ‘s disease for example.

3. Comprehensive dynamic neuropsychology

Integral dynamic neuropsychology is the current focus within neuropsychology and it maintains that the relationship between brain and behavior must be understood from a dynamic interface and not as separate or causally related dimensions in a static way.

Note: This discipline attempts to understand and study the process of interaction between neurological and psychological factors and the cognitive processes of the human being.

How is neuropsychology applied?

Neuropsychology is a highly demanded discipline in in the context of public health , although the number of professionals trained in this area is small in some countries.

To highlight: This discipline is especially useful in those cases of people who have suffered brain damage, where the functioning of some process of cognitionin the patient has been compromised, as well as in terms of evaluation and intervention.

Another application of neuropsychology has been in the field of education in the areas of language, memory, executive functions and attention , especially in children, since it is known that at an early age they have a series of periods of development, which are known as critical and sensitive periods. (3)

On the other hand, this specialty is also applied in the social context, such as in the legal area, and Forensic Neuropsychology (4) as well as neuropsychology has been actively intervening in the field of research.

What does a neuropsychologist do?

A neuropsychologist is a specialist in neurology and psychology , whose work is based on the following aspects:

1. Evaluate cognitive functions

One of the main problems that this discipline must deal with is related to the cognitive functions of the mind and that is why a detailed evaluation of the functioning of each one of them is important.

You should know: The neuropsychologist uses a series of instruments, techniques and the use of complementary tests, which allow him to collect the necessary information to identify with relative accuracy the possible problems in cognitive functions.

2. Interpret the results and generate diagnoses

Another of the competences of the neuropsychologist, after the data collection stage is to interpret this data and elaborate the diagnosis on the basis of a scientific criterion.

3. Provide treatment and rehabilitation

At this point, the neuropsychologist, based on the diagnosis made, has the faculty and the necessary knowledge to choose the intervention strategy that must be addressed with the patient, which may include rehabilitation sessions, psychotherapy, drug therapy, or surgical intervention. (4)

Key Conclusions

  • Neuropsychology is a discipline in which two scientific specialties converge : neurology and psychology.
  • This discipline focuses on the knowledge of the physical structure of the brain and the understanding of cognitive processes.
  • The object of study of neuropsychology is injury, damage or malfunction of the structures of the central nervous system.
  • Neuropsychology studies the higher mental functions, the neural bases and how they are related to the processes of cognition.

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