What is Neuropsychology?
Neuropsychology is the study of changes in the human behavior and cognitive functioning. Usually neuropsychology is used after some sort of physical damage to the brain either through an accident, trauma, or even substance abuse. Some diseases that neuropsychology helps treat are Alzheimer’s, depression, ADHD, and brain damage due to stroke. Neuropsychology is the practice that mixes psychology and clinical neurology together. Neuropsychology is not just a study but a practice; there are neuropsychologists who have clients/patients and are trying to help them in a clinical setting. Neuropsychologists can be a part of diagnosing behavioral changes in people for court cases, giving insight to psychological responses, studying patient’s responses to stimuli, and working on new clinical treatments for disorders.
There are three different branches of neuropsychology known as
- Behavioral Neuroscience – behavioral neuroscience focuses on how biological processes underlie behavior
- Cognitive Neuroscience – focuses on how the brain controls and panels functions such as memory, attention and learning
- Social Neuroscience – focuses on the role the brain plays in social processes and social behaviors
Neuropsychology often studies people who have suffered some sort of bruising to the brain. By looking at the bruised area of the brain, neuropsychologists are able to see how different areas of the brain impact behavior and cognition or thinking abilities. Neuropsychology has helped to map the brain.
In neuropsychology the brain function is evaluated by testing the memory and thinking skills. Usually a detailed assessment of abilities is done, and the pattern of strengths and weaknesses are used in diagnosis and treatment plans. Neuropsychological evaluations are usually requested by doctors and other professionals to understand how different areas and parts of the brain are working. Neuropsychological testing will test areas such as:
- General intellect
- Executive skills
- Attention and concentration
- Learning and memory
- Visual-spatial skills
- Mood and personality
Neuropsychology uses these tests to identify weaknesses in specific areas. The neuropsychological testing is sensitive to mild memory and thinking problems that may not be apparent in other ways. Testing is also used to identify problems related to medical conditions that can affect memory and thinking such as Alzheimer’s.
The neuropsychology tests also help to differentiate between illnesses. This is paramount in making accurate diagnosis and tells doctors the best route of treatment. An example would be the test differentiating between Alzheimer’s disease and depression.
The testing with neuropsychology also is used to establish a person’s skills and abilities prior to any problem that could arise. The testing is used as a baseline to measure changes objectively that are specific to the individual.
Neuropsychology essentially is the marriage between the science of the brain and its impact on behavior and thinking. It has its place within the scientific community as well as in psychology. The study of neuropsychology has helped to push the science into human behavior and thinking to the next level.
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