What’s a Neuropsychologist?

This blog will address the question “What’s a Neuropsychologist?” It will discuss in detail what neuropsychologists do and how neuropsychological examinations take place. In the end, the blog will answer some frequently asked questions.

What’s a Neuropsychologist?

Neuropsychologists are psychologists that specialise in understanding how behaviours interact with the brain. They understand the relationship between the brain and the behaviours people engage in. They also try to understand how disorders of the brain and the nervous system can affect the behaviour and cognitive functioning of an individual.

A neuropsychologist’s role is to understand how the structures of the brain and the systems of the brain affect behaviour and thinking. They usually have a doctorate in psychology and are trained in neuropsychology. Neuropsychologists often work in clinical settings. They can also work in hospitals. 

Neuropsychologists look at how brain trauma can affect these aspects of your behaviour:

  • Cognitive – everything related to your thought processes, memory, and problem-solving
  • Social – how you relate to others and get along with them
  • Physical – if there are any deficits in how your body is functioning
  • Emotional – how is your mental health well-being and how do you feel otherwise

How to Become a Neuropsychologist?

Becoming a neuropsychologist is not easy as you need to have years of training to become fully qualified. The steps can vary from state to state and country to country, but the requirements remain universal overall. They include:

You need to get a Bachelor’s degree usually in biology or psychology

You need an advanced degree. You can do your Master’s program in Neuropsychology and then go on to do your PhD

You will also need Post-doctoral field experience. This usually tends to be a two-year fellowship program

You need to earn a license by passing the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP)

If you want to become board-certified, you may have to give additional oral and written tests.

If you wish to work in research, you will not need to pass the EPPP. However, if you are interested in fieldwork, then, you will still need to earn your license by passing the EPPP.

What does a neuropsychologist do?

Neuropsychologists study and treat people who have been diagnosed with different brain or nervous system disorders. They work in collaboration with doctors and neurologists.

Illnesses, injuries, as well as disorders of both the brain and the nervous system can affect how our cognitive functioning works. Some symptoms that may mean for you to visit a neuropsychologist include; memory problems, mood disturbances, difficulty in learning, and nervous system dysfunction.

Neuropsychologists help in determining what are the impairments in your brain and the severity. They understand the degree of impairment caused by strokes. 

They also diagnose and study Parkinson’s disease. This is a neurological disorder that can cause several physical dysfunctions. A neuropsychologist can examine the baseline of the condition, and its prognosis, and help in buffering the effects of the disease.

They also study Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia disorders that can cause changes in one’s memory, personality, and cognitive abilities. They study traumatic brain injuries and how they impact functions of reasoning, decision making, and problem-solving. 

They also study learning disabilities and how they develop and affect a person over time. They also develop treatment plans for the same.

Neuropsychological evaluation

The neuropsychological evaluation assesses how your brain functions. The evaluation typically includes interviews and questions to see how you perform on everyday tasks and identify any major memory problems or other concerns. The evaluation also includes information on your symptoms, any medical history that you have, and if you are taking any medications. 

The evaluation uses several standardised and established tests to assess brain functioning in areas of cognitive ability, memory, intelligence, personality, problem-solving, reasoning, emotions, and decision-making.

Brain scans, such as CT or MRI scans, can also help a neuropsychologist make a diagnosis.

What Conditions do Neuropsychologists treat?

Neuropsychologists treat the following conditions:

  • Attentional Deficit and Hyperactive Disorder
  • Neurodevelopmental Disorders like Autism Spectrum Disorder and Intellectual Disabilities
  • Down Syndrome, Huntington’s Disease, Tic disorders
  • Epilepsy
  • Alzheimer’s Disease and other Dementia Disorders
  • Addiction Disorders
  • Neurological effects of depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
  • Neurocognitive Disorders

When should I visit a Neuropsychologist?

It is a good time to see a neuropsychologist if you have the following symptoms:

Dizziness

If you feel like your head is spinning (vertigo) or that you have difficulty keeping your balance intact, it could be a sign of a serious underlying condition.

Numbness or tingling

If numbness or tingling, especially if it is occurring only on one side of the body, it could be an early sign of a stroke or another serious condition. If the numbness occurs suddenly, it is best to book an appointment with a neuropsychologist.

Movement problems

If you have difficulty in walking, shuffling your feet, or there are tremors and unintentional jerks in your muscles, it could all point to problems in the nervous system.

Memory problems

If you notice your memory worsening, your personality changing, and you keep mixing up words then it could be early signs of Alzheimer’s disease.

Chronic or severe headaches

Getting migraine headaches is a reason enough to make an appointment with a neurologist. This should, however, be especially done if the symptoms are associated with a particular neurological deficit.

Chronic pain

When you experience chronic pain that cannot be ruled out or managed by your physician, it is time to see a neuropsychologist as it can be due to other underlying problems.

Apart from these, if you have an inability to concentrate, problems with coordination, reasoning problems, difficulty organising your thoughts, fatigue, and issues with processing sensory information, you must visit a neuropsychologist.

Which is better neurologist or neuropsychologist?

Neurologists are specialised physicians who look into the non-surgical management of several nervous system disorders for both the central and peripheral nervous systems. 

Neurologists are responsible for managing all neurological problems ranging from headaches, and migraines, to more catastrophic diseases like Alzheimer’s disease, Huntington’s disease, Strokes, and Multiple Sclerosis (MS). It is widely believed neurologists are involved more in the diagnoses of conditions and don’t play a big role in the treatment for the same.

Neurologists only provide medication treatment for any physical problems caused by brain disorders. On the other hand, neuropsychologists treat cognitive, mental, as well as behavioural effects that brain disorders have on a person without the use of medications. 

Thus, if you want a more holistic understanding of how your brain disorder or injury is affecting your behaviour and personality, it is better to visit a neuropsychologist along with a neurologist. In general, neurologists and neuropsychologists work in collaboration due to the overlap in the areas they study.

Conclusion

This blog addresses the question “What’s a Neuropsychologist?” It discusses in detail what neuropsychologists do and how neuropsychological examinations take place. In the end, the blog will answer some frequently asked questions.

Frequently Asked Questions: What’s a Neuropsychologist?

What is the difference between neuropsychologists and psychologists?

The difference between neuropsychologists and psychologists is the approach they take to studying individuals. While psychologists focus on the emotional health of an individual and the emotional turbulence their disorders take in their life, neuropsychologists understand the cognitive and mental effects of the same. Neuropsychology is more driven by research and objective issues, while psychology focuses on the individual and takes more therapeutic approaches.

What is the personality of neuropsychologists like?

Neuropsychologists are investigative, inquisitive, and curious. They spend a lot of time alone with their thoughts and contemplating them. They tend to be social and are able to talk to people as well as persuade or help them.

Their personality type is that of someone who is creative, and imaginative, and they also value variety or differences. They are also agreeable and this means they are sensitive to the needs of others. They value harmony. 

How much intelligence is required as a neuropsychologist?

You require higher levels of intelligence to become a neuropsychologist. You need to be able to have qualities of self-learning and analytical thinking.

How did Cognitive Neuroscience come into existence?

Cognitive neuroscience is considered to be a new field in both neuroscience and psychology. In the 1970s, Michael Gazzaniga, who was a neuroscientist and George Miller, who was a cognitive psychologist, pioneered the way toward cognitive neuroscience. Here is a brief history of neuroscience.

References

Gazzaniga, M. S. (2009). The cognitive neurosciences. MIT press.

Miller, G. A. (1989). George A. Miller. Stanford University Press.

What was missing from this post which could have made it better?