Neuropsychology: Definition And Objectives

The neuropsychologist analyzes the cognitive and behavioral processes in order to evaluate, verify and formulate a diagnosis so as to be able to identify the problem that afflicts the patient.
Neuropsychology: definition and objectives

Neuropsychology is that branch of psychology that studies the relationship between the brain, its processes and behavior. Although a priori it may appear a recent science, the objectives of this discipline have been the central focus of psychology for many years.

However, it was through the development of neuroscience and neuroimaging techniques that the activity of the neuropsychologist progressed dramatically. In the field of neuropsychology it is possible to identify two main areas: experimental and clinical.

On the one hand, experimental neuropsychology aims to validate theoretical models and verify cognitive processes. On the other hand, the clinical one applies this knowledge to evaluation and intervention from a scientific point of view, with the aim of treating dysfunctions of the central nervous system.

Brain illustration in profile.

Experimental neuropsychology

The experimental or research area aims to provide the discipline with a theoretical-experimental framework, so that the results obtained can be applicable to the clinical field.

For this purpose, it relies on the hypothetical-deductive method, common in neuroscience. This method consists in formulating hypotheses and objectives that will be verified through the application of a rigorous method, as well as approval by the scientific community.

One can choose between different types of models to study the phenomenon of interest, since animal or human models can be used. In any case, the studies must be approved by a scientific ethics committee.

In the human-focused study, participants must also sign an informed consent. Research in neuropsychology aims to:

  • Describe the disorders and functioning of the brain and its cognitive processes
  • Determine the risk and protective factors
  • Design and evaluate rehabilitation interventions and methods

Therefore, the fundamental activity of the experimental neuropsychologist is to commit to ethical and methodological principles, with the aim of providing valid and transparent results.

In doing so, he will be able to help broaden knowledge about various disorders and develop truly effective interventions.

Activity of the clinical neuropsychologist

Evaluate

Neuropsychological assessment is a process whose ultimate goal is to detect, describe and measure the change or cognitive impairment and alterations that occur after a brain injury or malfunction.

The first step is to collect information about the patient and the disorder, thus reconstructing their medical history. Subsequently, the most appropriate assessment tools (tests, questionnaires or trials) will be selected based on the patient profile and the processes to be assessed.

Finally, the evaluation tools will be applied. The latter provide quantifiable information (scores) with which to compare brain functioning with that of the general population.

In addition to this, the observation made by the neuropsychologist during the course of the evaluation is a fundamental part of the work.

In this way he will be able to verify the difficulties and in which part of the process they arise, as well as the attitude of the patient and the recognition of their handicaps.

Diagnosis

Once the evaluation results are obtained, they need to be interpreted. The information about the processes involved and the extent to which they will help the practitioner to make a diagnosis.

Once the problem has been identified, it is established how the patient’s social, work and family life may be compromised, as well as the prognosis for evolution and recovery.

A report is then drawn up that includes the results, the diagnosis and an approach to the intervention, as well as an estimate of the benefits that will be achieved.

In any case, we will try to aim for the best possible result. The rehabilitation of the patient consists in this, that is to reach the maximum degree of autonomy and quality of life possible.

On the other hand, it is essential that the report includes all information, written in a way that is understandable to both the patient and the family, as well as other professionals.

In any case, this report will need to be discussed during the session so that the patient can explain his or her personal doubts, concerns and goals.

Rehabilitation in neuropsychology

Once the difficulties have been identified and an intervention planned, neuropsychological rehabilitation is carried out. It consists in the application of techniques to improve behavioral and cognitive dysfunctions that have appeared as a result of damage or alteration.

For this purpose, different goals are established based on specific needs and guidelines. The main purpose in any neuropsychological intervention is the recovery, as far as possible, of impaired functions through cognitive stimulation.

Man cognitive stimulation exercises.

During rehabilitation, we also work on training and the use of strategies that compensate for difficulties. Therefore, if it is not possible to restore a cognitive function to previous levels, it will be possible at least to continue carrying out the activities through the application of complementary strategies.

It is also very important to work on the emotions and behaviors related to the alteration and accompany the adaptation process. As part of this work, it is essential to remember family members.

The role of caregivers and those around us is essential. Therefore, it is necessary to explain to them what happened to the patient and what this will entail in his life.

Likewise, it is very important to teach them coping strategies and to show them how they can participate in their recovery.

Neuropsychology and specific fields of work

Although the neuropsychologist seems to focus only on the clinical counterpart of the job, brain damage or dysfunction can have very different origins and affect completely different people. In light of this, neuropsychology is applied in various fields.

Currently, the most important areas are child neuropsychology, geriatric or dementia, addiction, intercultural, forensic, occupational or educational medicine, among others.

Conclusions

Regardless of the area, the neuropsychologist’s aim is to improve the patient’s quality of life. He will work with other professionals (neurologists, nurses, occupational therapists, etc.) to achieve this together.

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