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What Is Clinical Neuropsychology?

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  • Written By: C.B. Fox
  • Edited By: Susan Barwick
  • Last Modified Date: 17 September 2016
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    Conjecture Corporation
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Clinical neuropsychology is a branch of psychology that focuses on the connection between human behavior and the anatomy of the brain. Doctors in this specialty can assess and treat a variety of disorders, including brain injuries, dementia, and congenital disorders. A variety of objective tests are used in clinical neuropsychology to assess a patient’s cognitive and behavioral function. Once a disorder has been properly diagnosed, a neuropsychologist can develop a course of treatment particular to a patient’s needs. The focus of clinical neuropsychology is on brain disorders that are caused by physiological problems rather than those caused by emotional or psychiatric disorders.

Though clinical neuropsychology is a branch of psychology, it has a significantly different focus than general psychology does. Though the emotional or psychiatric disorders handled by clinical neuropsychology may be symptomatically similar to those treated by general psychology, the disorders must have a physiological cause to be treated by a neuropsychologist. These specialists look for physical problems within the patient's brain to determine the cause and the treatment options for various disorders. Diagnosis and treatment of these disorders requires an in-depth knowledge of brain anatomy.

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A variety of tests are used in clinical neuropsychology to determine whether a physiological problem or cognitive disorder is responsible for a patient’s behavior. These tests are most frequently used to determine whether there are problems with memory or thinking. They evaluate the patient’s ability to pay attention, recall information, process information, and manipulate objects. The tests are designed to be objective and compare the patient’s results to the results of people with normal brain function. The testing can help identify a the disorder or region of the brain that is damaged and can also be used to evaluate a patient’s current functionality, establishing a baseline to determine if subsequent treatment is effective.

Once a disorder has been identified, the doctor can implement a treatment plan. Therapy, medication, surgery, and behavioral modification may all be used in the treatment of neuropsychological disorders. One of the most common disorders treated by clinical neuropsychology is physical injury to the brain. Patients who have been in an accident are often evaluated to determine whether there is brain damage and how to best treat that damage. Elderly patients with Alzheimer’s, stroke, and dementia and pediatric patients with congenital disorders may also have physical damage to the brain that can be assessed and treated.

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