If you have always liked psychology and are curious about how the human brain works, you will like to discover neuropsychology and the work that a neuropsychologist does. We will tell you.
In this brief guide we are going to answer the question ‘’What do you study in Neuropsychology?’’ We will describe the characteristics of neuropsychology, its object of study and applications.
What do you study in Neuropsychology?
Neuropsychology studies the structures and function of the brain and how they relate to personality, emotion, behavior, and mental health.
Neuropsychology is a specific speciality within the field of Psychology, with a more specific field of study. But what does neuropsychology study?
Neuropsychology studies the relationship between brain structures and mental and behavioural processes. It studies both healthy people and people who have suffered brain damage. It is a speciality that converges between psychology and neurology.
Neuropsychology is neuroscience.
Neuroscience studies brain functioning from a multidisciplinary point of view, that is, through the contribution of non-exclusive disciplines such as physics, chemistry, biology, neurology, genetics, computer science, psychiatry and (neuro)psychology.
All these approaches, within a new conception of the human mind, are necessary to understand mental processes, particularly the more complex ones such as intelligence, consciousness, personality or emotions.
In recent years, Neuropsychology has received a great boost due to the increasing development of cognitive and neurobiological sciences. And also, thanks to neuroimaging techniques. Do you want to know more about neuropsychology and the functions of a Neuropsychologist?
If the answer is yes, then you will enjoy reading this post and you will like to discover neuropsychology and the work that a neuropsychologist does.
Characteristics of Neuropsychology
First of all, we are going to dwell on the characteristics of Neuropsychology.
Neuropsychology has a neuroscientific character
Neuropsychology uses the scientific method to study the relationship between the brain and human behaviour.
The most widely used scientific methods are:
- Hypothetical-deductive method: It is based on the proposition of hypotheses, the performance of experiments and the acceptance or rejection of those hypotheses.
- Analytical-deductive method. It is based on conducting various experiments to compare and analyze the relationship between some facts.
Study higher mental functions
The brain functions of interest in neuropsychology are language, attention, memory, perceptual systems, executive functions, and praxis in the context of normal development and in acquired brain damage.
Executive functions encompass a wide number of goal-directed cognitive skills and strategies. Within the executive functions, we find different processes (inhibition of responses, cognitive flexibility and working memory, among others).
They are important for the development of activities of daily living, and an alteration in any of these functions can affect decision-making, creation of plans, problem-solving or self-control.
Has a great interest in the associative cerebral cortex
Neuropsychology cares a great deal about this cortex for two specific reasons. The first is because this area of the brain has as its main responsibility all higher cognitive processes. And the second, due to the fact that unfortunately, it is one of the parts that most tend to be affected when there is some disease or disorder.
Although it is not the only area that can lead to this, affectations to the corpus callosum, basal ganglia, hippocampus, amygdala, thalamus and cerebellum also trigger cognitive and emotional deterioration.
Study of the adverse effects that arise from brain injuries
The following must be made clear: neuropsychology and clinical neuropsychology are not the same. The first focuses on studying the brain-behaviour relationship in healthy subjects, and to some extent, it can be understood and seen as cognitive neuroscience.
And the second treat only those people who acquire some damage to their nervous system and disorders that derive from it: aphasias, amnesias, apraxias, agnosias, etc.
Neuropsychology was born as an autonomous entity thanks to the contributions and work of many other disciplines such as neurology, biology, neurophysiology, neurochemistry, experimental psychology, pharmacology, cognitive psychology, among others.
This interdisciplinary character also goes in the sense that clinical neuropsychologists work hand in hand with other health professionals for the evaluation and treatment of brain damage: neurologists, neurosurgeons, physiotherapists, speech therapists, occupational therapists, clinical psychologists, etc.
What does a neuropsychologist do?
The main functions of a neuropsychologist are as follows:
- Evaluate and/or establish a clinical diagnosis (cognitive, behavioural and emotional) through standardized tests.
- Rehabilitation and psychotherapeutic treatment.
- Orientation to relatives, patients and health and assistance personnel.
A neuropsychologist or a neuropsychologist intervenes in different areas:
Carrying out neuropsychological evaluations
The action of the neuropsychologist may be requested for the purpose of evaluation, assessment and diagnosis of higher psychological functions and the affective-behavioural state. The objective is to know if the patient has a problem and, therefore, the cause and the implications of it.
More specifically, the purpose of the evaluation may be the detection and localization of brain lesions.
Another objective of the neuropsychological evaluation may be the performance of differential diagnoses. This, that is, to discriminate if the alterations have an organic basis, or are functional instead. An example would be the differential diagnosis of depression/dementia.
In the workplace, the neuropsychological evaluation after a brain injury is carried out to consider the possible reintegration into the workplace.
On the other hand, with a child population, the study can be directed to more specific aspects, such as the evaluation of mental retardation and the assessment of special educational needs.
Child Neuropsychology is a neuroscience that studies the relationships between behaviour and the developing brain. Also called Neuropsychology of Child Development.
Neuropsychology is not understood without the concept of neurorehabilitation. The neuropsychologist intervenes in the neurorehabilitation process, this is the process focused on recovering from the damage that has caused an injury to the nervous system. The main intervention strategies in neuropsychology are restoration, replacement, and compensation.
The specific actions of neuropsychological treatment and intervention are:
1. Therapeutic intervention to optimize the recovery of impaired cognitive functions (attention, language, memory, etc.).
2. Train in the development and use of cognitive strategies.
3. Facilitate the use of compensatory techniques and methods.
4. Treatment of emotional and behavioural disorders associated with the current injury to facilitate the patient’s adjustment process.
5. Intervention with relatives: inform about what is brain damage and its consequences.
6. Cognitive stimulation. Intervention whose objective is to stimulate preserved functions as well as to maintain the patient’s autonomy for as long as possible.
Research is essential in any field. Any prevention and cure treatment is based on research.
The objective of these investigations is to provide a theoretical-experimental framework for neuropsychology in such a way that many of these discoveries may later be used in the clinical field.
With which patients does a neuropsychologist work?
Neuropsychologists work with people of all ages. Mainly, they work with babies in Early Care, with children and adolescents with learning difficulties, with adults with brain damage and with the elderly with dementia.
They most often treat patients with neurological problems resulting from brain damage or injury due to:
- A head injury.
- A stroke.
- A neurodegenerative disease: Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy.
- Brain tumours.
- The early detection of these problems is essential to establish an adequate treatment.
They also work frequently with older people, who seek help because they are concerned about memory problems. Many times, these problems may simply be due to the normal cognitive changes of aging. However, others may be due to the presence of mild cognitive impairment, or to the initial phase of dementia.
Nowadays, we have preventive workshops, where different cognitive stimulation exercises are carried out, especially for the work of attention, memory areas and executive functions.
Recent research has made it possible to carry out early diagnoses of Alzheimer’s disease through neuropsychological tests.
Less frequently, but not less importantly, the neuropsychologist works with people who suffer from other chronic pathologies, such as diabetes, hypothyroidism, lupus … These pathologies are also often accompanied by cognitive alterations.
Also, many psychiatric illnesses (such as schizophrenia, depression, bipolar disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder) compromise certain cognitive functions and in many cases require neuropsychological examination. In this group, Neuropsychology has advanced more in recent times.
In children, the neuropsychologist works mainly with children with developmental disorders (among others, autism), language and learning difficulties, and hyperactivity.
Where is neuropsychology useful?
It’s important to emphasize that both the scope of action and the people with whom a Neuropsychologist works is very varied. Due to this same fact, the place in which this specialist can work is also diverse:
- Health centers
- Research centers
- Day care centers
- Psychiatric hospitals
So, what do you study in Neuropsychology?
In general, any pathology that is related to the central nervous system and affects its functioning involves neuropsychological work. This cognitive functioning can be affected both directly and indirectly.
Finally, neuropsychology is the science that studies the relationship that the brain has with mental, emotional and behavioral processes. It works in multiple areas such as evaluation, rehabilitation, prevention, research and orientation.
Therefore, it is aimed at both healthy people and all those who have a brain injury that affects cognitive, affective and behavioral functioning.
However, it is not exclusively necessary to have a pathology to attend a neuropsychological consultation. Also healthy people interested in knowing and improving the performance levels of their cognitive functions.
That is, they can be evaluated, with the aim of being able to carry out primary prevention if they have factors that put brain health at risk (For example, recurrent forgetfulness, genetic predispositions, etc.). Also, those people who want to improve academic performance through cognitive stimulation.
The definitive push that neuropsychology has received is given by the increasingly urgent need to shed some light on the cerebral bases of mental disorders. Neuropsychology is the link between different aspects of knowledge such as neurology, psychiatry and psychology.
Finally, I want to highlight the important role that Neuropsychology performs today. It is a science that has specialized in studying the behaviour and development of skills in relation to the Nervous System, and it has allowed us to discover different neurorehabilitation treatments for different types of pathologies.
FAQS: What do you study in Neuropsychology?
What do you learn in neuropsychology?
In neuropsychology you learn the different alterations in cognitive abilities caused by brain injuries from a psychological point of view.
Does neuropsychology require math?
Yes, considering neuropsychology is postgraduate, you will need good math skills that you will possibly use in the lab.
What skills do you need to be a neuropsychologist?
There are many skills neuropsychologists must develop over years of study and practice in order to be successful, including:
Clarity when Speaking and Superb Listening.
Writing and Documentation.
Monitoring and Awareness.
Interpretation and Analysis.
Willingness to Learn.
Is neuropsychology a good career?
Studying psychology requires a long time, yes, many years of study. But the salary is worth it. Also, it has a very large field. So yes, neuropsychology is a good career.
Is neuropsychology a doctor?
Yes, a neuropsychologist has a doctorate (PhD or PsyD). A person with a doctorate can be called a doctor, and neuropsychologists have similar activities to neurologists, only with a different approach.
In this brief guide we answered the question ‘’What do you study in Neuropsychology?’’ We described the characteristics of neuropsychology, its object of study and applications.
If you have any questions or comments please let us know!
How to Become a Neuropsychologist. (2013). Retrieved October 22, 2020, from Psychologyschoolguide.net website: https://www.psychologyschoolguide.net/career-guides/becoming-a-neuropsychologist/#:~:text=Neuropsychology%20is%20the%20branch%20of,grown%20by%20leaps%20and%20bounds.
So You Want to Be a Neuropsychologist? (2011). Retrieved October 22, 2020, from Psychology Today website: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/trouble-in-mind/201111/so-you-want-be-neuropsychologist
Heilman, M. K. M., & Valenstein, E. (2010). Clinical neuropsychology. Oxford University Press.
Walsh, K. W. (1978). Neuropsychology: A clinical approach. Churchill Livingstone.