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Neuropsychology is a branch of psychology and neurology that aims to understand how the structure and function of the brain relate to specific psychological processes and overt behaviors.

It is scientific in its approach and shares an information processing view of the mind with cognitive psychology and cognitive science.

It is one of the more eclectic of the psychological disciplines, overlapping at times with areas such as neuroscience, philosophy (particularly philosophy of mind), neurology, psychiatry and computer science (particularly by making use of artificial neural networks).

In practice neuropsychologists tend to work in academia (involved in basic or clinical research), clinical settings (involved in assessing or treating patients with neuropsychological problems - see clinical neuropsychology), forensic settings (often assessing people for legal reasons or court cases or working with offenders, or appearing in court as expert witness) or industry (often as consultants where neuropsychological knowledge is applied to product design or in the management of pharmaceutical clinical-trials research for drugs that might have a potential impact on CNS functioning).


Experimental neuropsychology is an approach which uses methods from experimental psychology to uncover the relationship between the nervous system and cognitive function. The majority of work involves studying healthy humans in a laboratory setting, although a minority of researchers may conduct animal experiments. Human work in this area often takes advantage of specific features of our nervous system (for example that visual information presented to a specific visual field is preferentially processed by the cortical hemisphere on the opposite side) to make links between neuroanatomy and psychological function.

Clinical neuropsychology is the application of neuropsychological knowledge to the assessment (see neuropsychological test and neuropsychological assessment), management and rehabilitation of people who have suffered illness or injury (particularly to the brain) which has caused neurocognitive problems. In particular they bring a psychological viewpoint to treatment, to understand how such illness and injury may affect and be affected by psychological factors. Clinical neuropsychologists typically work in hospital settings in an interdisciplinary medical team, although private practice work is not unknown.

Cognitive neuropsychology is a relatively new development and has emerged as a distillation of the complementary approaches of both experimental and clinical neuropsychology. It seeks to understand the mind and brain by studying people who have suffered brain injury or neurological illness. One model of neuropsychological functioning is known as localization. This is based on the principle that if a specific cognitive problem can be found after an injury to a specific area of the brain, it is possible that this part of the brain is in some way involved. However, this dated, simplistic model is usually rejected in the current literature. A model such as parallel processing has more explanatory power for the workings and dysfunction of the human brain. A more recent but related approach is cognitive neuropsychiatry which seeks to understand the normal function of mind and brain by studying psychiatric or mental illness.

Connectionism is the use of artificial neural networks to model specific cognitive processes using what are considered to be simplified but plausible models of how neurons operate. Once trained to perform a specific cognitive task these networks are often damaged or 'lesioned' to simulate brain injury or impairment in an attempt to understand and compare the results to the effects of brain injury in humans.

Functional neuroimaging uses specific neuroimaging technologies to take readings from the brain, usually when a person is doing a particular task, in an attempt to understand how the activation of particular brain areas is related to the task. In particular, the growth of methodologies to employ cognitive testing within established functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) techniques to study brain-behavior relations is having a notable influence on neuropsychological research.

In practice these approaches are not mutually exclusive and most neuropsychologists select the best approach or approaches for the task to be completed.

Sub Specialities

Assessment methods and tools

  • The use of standardized neuropsychological measures. These tasks have been designed so the performance on the task can be linked to specific neurocognitive processes. These tests are generally standardized, meaning that they have been administered to a specific, target group of individuals before being used in the public sphere. The data resulting from standardization are known as normative data. After these data have been collected and analyzed, they are used as the comparative standard against which individual performances can be compared. Examples of neuropsychological tests include: the Halstead-Reitan Neuropsychological Battery, the Boston Naming Test, the Wisconsin Card Sorting Test, the Benton Visual Retention Test, Controlled Oral Word Association, and the Woodcock-Johnson.
  • The use of brain scans to investigate the structure or function of the brain is common, either as simply a way of better assessing brain injury with high resolution pictures, or by examining the relative activations of different brain areas. Such technologies may include fMRI (functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging) and PET (Positron Emission Tomography), which yields data related to functioning, as well as MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) and CAT (or CT) (Computed Axial Tomography), which yields structural data.
  • The use of electrophysiological measures designed to measure the activation of the brain by measuring the electrical or magnetic field produced by the nervous system. This may include EEG (Electroencephalography) or MEG (Magneto-encephalography).
  • The use of designed experimental tasks, often controlled by computer and typically measuring reaction time and accuracy on a particular tasks thought to be related to a specific neurocognitive process.


See also

References & Bibliography

Key texts


  • Beaumont, J. Graham.(1983). Introduction to Neuropsychology. New York:The Guilford Press, .
  • Beaumont,J.G. et al (eds.) (1996). The Blackwell Dictionary of Neuropsychology. Oxford:Blackwell.
  • Marcotte, Thomas D. [ed]; Grant, Igor [ed]. (2010). Neuropsychology of everyday functioning. New York, NY, US: Guilford Press; US.

Handbook of Neuropsychology

  • Rizzolatti,G. and Goodglass,H.(1988)Handbook of Neuropsychology: Vol 1Elsevier.ISBN 044490493X
  • Boller,F (1990) Handbook of Neuropsychology: Vol 2Elsevier.ISBN 0444813101
  • Squire, L.R. and Gainotti, G.(1989)Handbook of Neuropsychology: vol 3Elsevier. ISBN 0444810900
  • Nebes,R. D. and Corkin,S.(1990) Handbook of Neuropsychology: Vol 4Elsevier. ISBN 0444812342
  • Boller,F. and Grafman, J. (1993) Handbook of Neuropsychology: Vol 5ElsevierISBN 0444815015


Additional material


  • Arnold, M.B. (1984). Memory and the Brain. Hillsdale, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
  • Attix, D.K. & Welsh-Bohmer, K.A. (2006). Geriatric Neuropsychology. The Guilford Press: New York.
  • Beaumont, J.G.(1983). Introduction to Neuropsychology. Guilford Publications Inc. ISBN 0-89862-515-7
  • Beamont, J. G., Kenealy, P.M., & Rogers, M.J.C. (1999). The Blackwell Dictionary of Neuropsychology. Malden, Massachusetts,Blackwell Publishers.
  • Cabeza, R. & Kingstone, A. (eds.) (2001) Handbook of Functional Neuroimaging and Cognition. Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press.
  • Christensen, A-L. (1975) Luria's Neuropsychological Investigation. New York: Spectrum Publications.
  • David, A.S. et al. (eds.) (1997). The Neuropsychology of Schizophrenia: Brain Damage, Behaviour, and Cognition Series, East Sussex,UK, Psychology Press.
  • Goldstein, L.H. & McNeil, J.E, (2004) Clinical neuropsychology: A Practical Guide to Assessment for Clinicians. London:John Wiley.
  • Hannay, H.J. (1986). Experimental Techniques in Human Neuropsychology. New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Hartlage, L.C. & Telzrow, C.F. (1985) The Neuropsychology of Individual Differences. New York: Plenum Press.
  • Kertesz, A. (ed.) (1994). Localization and Neuroimaging in Neuropsychology. Academic Press: New York.
  • Kolb, B., & Wishaw, I.Q. (2003). Fundamentals of Human Neuropsychology (5th edition). Freeman. ISBN 0-7167-5300-6
  • Lezak, M.D., Howieson, D.B., & Loring, D.W. (2004). Neuropsychological Assessment (4th ed.). New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Loring, D.W. (ed.) (1999). INS Dictionary of Neuropsychology. New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Luria, A. R. (1973). The Working Brain: An Introduction to Neuropsychology.
  • Luria, A.R. (1976). Cognitive Development: Its Cultural and Social Foundations. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press
  • Luria, A.R. (1979). The Making of Mind: A Personal Account of Soviet Psychology. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press
  • Luria, A.R. (1980). Higher Cortical Functions in Man. New York: Basic Books.
  • Luria, A.R. (1982). Language and Cognition. New York: John Wiley & Sons.
  • Luria, A.R. (1987). The Mind of a Mnemonist. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.
  • Luria, A.R. & Tsvetkova, L.S. (1990) The Neuropsychological Analysis of Problem Solving. Orlando: Paul M. Deutsch Press.
  • McCarthy, R.A. & Warrington, E.K. (1990). Cognitive Neuropsychology: A Clinical Introduction. New York: Academic Press.
  • Mesulam, M-M. (2000). Principles of Behavioral and Cognitive Neurology - 2nd Ed. New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Rains, G.D. (2002). Principles of Human Neuropsychology. Boston: McGraw-Hill.
  • Tarter, R.E., Van Thiel, D.H. & Edwards, K.L. (1988) Medical Neuropsychology: The Impact of Disease on Behavior. New York: Plenum Press.
  • Heilbronner, R.L. (year?) Forensic Neuropsychology Casebook. New York, London. The Guilford Press.


  • Google Scholar
  • Humphreys, G. W. & Riddoch, M. J. Neuropsychological Disorders Of Visual Object Recognition. In Behrmann M.(2002). (Ed.), Handbook Of Neuropsychology. Amsterdam: Elsevier Science.

External links

  • The International Neuropsychological Society, "a multi-disciplinary non-profit organization dedicated to enhancing communication among the scientific disciplines which contribute to the understanding of brain-behavior relationships."
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