What is Neuropsychology?
Neuropsychology is a branch of clinical psychology that studies how problems and the nervous system affect how we feel and think. Clinical neuropsychology makes use of various assessment methods to ascertain function and dysfunction and applies this knowledge to evaluate, treat and rehabilitate individuals with suspected or demonstrated neurological or psychological problems.
Neuropsychologists can be useful in four different ways. First, a neurologist may know what is wrong with your brain, but want to know the psychological problems that result. Second, a patient may have psychological problems that point to having a specific neurological disease. Third, some patients may have two sets of problems with different causes, one from neurology and the other from psychology or psychiatry, that need to be "sorted" out. Fourth, there are people with the symptoms of neurological illnesses that in turn cause adjustment problems or family stress that require interventions of a specific type.
There are several ways in which neuropsychology can be used. First, if your doctor has already found a neurological problem, we can see how it has effected you psychologically in areas like memory or mood. Second, you may have psychological problems that may actually be related to brain disorders. Third, some people may have problems with more than one cause, like a head trauma and losing a job.
Why seek an evaluation from a neuropsychologist?
Parents and potential patients, particularly in light of the fact that many other individuals including clinical psychologists and school psychologist are not not trained in neuropsychology often claim to be able to conduct such an evaluation. While it is true that clinical and school psychologists can learn to administer nearly any test that a neuropsychologist uses, the primary difference is how the measure is applied and interpreted.
The training that a neuropsychologist receives enables him or her to understand the test findings within the context of how the brain of the person who is being evaluated is functioning. This entails a detailed knowledge of brain anatomy, the role that different brain areas serve and how these functions are likely to be impacted by various disorders such as Down's Syndrome, Multiple Sclerosis, brain tumors, ADHD, seizures and acquired brain injuries. In addition, when dealing with learning disabilities it is important to know what else is going on in the brain. It is not only important to know whether or not the child has a reading or math disorder, but it is necessary to understand why it exists. For example, in children who have always had difficulties with reading and writing it is common to find the presence of other language-based disorders. In addition there are many disorders, such as Klinefelter Syndrome and Autism Spectrum Disorder (formerly known as Asperger's Disorder), where many of the individuals also have learning disabilities (e.g., language disorders are common in Klinefelter Syndrome while non-verbal learning problems are common in Asperger's Disorder).
Let's talk about memory. Memory can go wrong in a variety of ways. (1) You may be unable to remember anything for more than an hour, but have a great memory for the distant past. You cannot add to your memory bank. This is common with Alzheimer's disease. (2) Totally forgetting for two or three minutes is called a memory gap. (3) You may have trouble recalling something specific, like people's names that you knew in the past. That is an issue with word finding. (4) You 'misplace' a memory or "forget" to remember. You remember something, but at the wrong time. (5) You have trouble learning something specific, like reading, which is why it is called learning disability. (6) You put something down in a specific place, and forget where you put it, but it is there later. This is not a memory problem. It has to do with visual scanning.
- Alzheimer's Disease & Other Dementias
- Attention Deficit/ Hyperactivity Disorder
- Brain Tumors & Cancer
- Endocrine Disorders
- Epilepsy & Seizure Disorders
- Klinefelter Syndrome & Other Sex Chromosome Abnormalities
- Learning Disorders: Reading (dyslexia), Math & Writing
- Motor Neuron Diseases (ALS, Sma,Pbp, PLS)
- Autism Spectrum Disorder
- Sports Concussion
- Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)