What is a Neuropsychologist?
The following is the official definition from the National Academy of Neuropsychology
NAN DEFINITION OF A CLINICAL NEUROPSYCHOLOGIST 2001
Official Position of the National Academy of Neuropsychology
Approved by the Board of Directors 05/05/2001
This 2001 definition expands upon and modifies the 1989 definition by Division 40 of the American Psychological Association, which was used as the foundation for this updated document.
A clinical neuropsychologist is a professional within the field of psychology with special expertise in the applied science of brain-behavior relationships. Clinical neuropsychologists use this knowledge in the assessment, diagnosis, treatment, and/or rehabilitation of patients across the lifespan with neurological, medical, neurodevelopmental and psychiatric conditions, as well as other cognitive and learning disorders. The clinical neuropsychologist uses psychological, neurological, cognitive, behavioral, and physiological principles, techniques and tests to evaluate patients’ neurocognitive, behavioral, and emotional strengths and weaknesses and their relationship to normal and abnormal central nervous system functioning. The clinical neuropsychologist uses this information and information provided by other medical/healthcare providers to identify and diagnose neurobehavioral disorders, and plan and implement intervention strategies. The specialty of clinical neuropsychology is recognized by the American Psychological Association and the Canadian Psychological Association.
Clinical neuropsychologists are independent practitioners (healthcare providers) of clinical neuropsychology and psychology.
The clinical neuropsychologist (minimal criteria) has:
- A doctoral degree in psychology from an accredited university training program.
- An internship, or its equivalent, in a clinically relevant area of professional psychology.
- The equivalent of two (fulltime) years of experience and specialized training, at least one of which is at the post-doctoral level, in the study and practice of clinical neuropsychology and related neurosciences. These two years include supervision by a clinical neuropsychologist.
- A license in his or her state or province to practice psychology and/or clinical neuropsychology independently, or is employed as a neuropsychologist by an exempt agency.
At present, board certification is not required for practice in clinical neuropsychology. Board certification (through formal credential verification, written and oral examination, and peer review) in the specialty of clinical neuropsychology is further evidence of the above advanced training, supervision, and applied fund of knowledge in clinical neuropsychology.
Report of the Division 40/INS Joint Task Force on Education, Accreditation,
and Credentialing (1984). Division 40 Newsletter, Vol.2, no. 2, pp. 3-8.
Definition of a Clinical Neuropsychologist, The Clinical Neuropsychologist 1989, Vol. 3, No. 1, pp.22
What is a Neuropsychological Exam?
- Neuropsychological exams are designed to determine the brain’s capacity with respect to a number of functions (e.g. memory, language).
- Neuropsychologists can determine the effects of an injury or disease in a standardized and scientific manner.
- Neuropsychological exams are one of the “gold standards“ in determining the existence of disease and injury to the brain.
Neuropsychological Exams Measure
- Attention and Processing Speed
- Motor Performance
- Acquisition and Memory
- General Cognitive Functioning -Intelligence
- Language Functioning
- Sensory/Perceptual Functions
- Working Memory
- Abstract Thinking
- Executive Functions
- Visuospatial Analysis
- Problem Solving and Judgment
Why are Neuropsychological Exams Important?
- Patient estimates of functioning are inaccurate.
- Many times neurocognitive symptoms have no physical or physiological explanations that neurologists can trace during their examinations. In such cases, neuropsychological examination can be objective evidence of a disease or “normal functioning”.
- Normal imaging studies do not always rule out a problem with the brain.
- In many cases, patient injuries and symptoms are not uncovered because of negative scanning tests (e.g. MRI, CT).
- How functional skills (e.g., memory, language, attention, reading, planning, etc.) change and impact daily life as a result of brain dysfunction from injury and disease
- The relationship between mental processes and how injury to one brain system may adversely influence the functioning of other systems
- Brain related diseases/diagnoses based, in part, on results of objective procedures sensitive to brain injury/disease
- Synthesis of history, personality, medical and physical health history, and mechanisms of disease in order to make sense of present functioning and clinical presentation
- Determination of rehabilitation needs based on the measured strengths and weaknesses in functional domains and the lifestyle of the individual.
- Life-consequences of disease and the manner in which people may recover from dysfunction and/or adapt to disability and dysfunction