This article will describe “Neuropsychology”, it’s history, approaches, neuropsychological assessments, neuropsychology in therapies and how neuropsychology affects the therapeutic outcomes.
Neuropsychology is a branch of psychology that is concerned with the brain and how the brain and the rest of the nervous system influence an individual’s thinking and behaviors. Professionals in this branch focus on the functioning of the brain and how injuries or illnesses of the brain affect cognitive functions thought processes and behaviors.
Brain traumatic injuries lead to mental disorders, which are classified as Organic Disorders. It maintains a better diagnosis and treatment options for the patients as it differentiates between brain disorders and mental disorders. It helps in ruling out the structural brain disorders and other neurological disorders when developing a treatment plan for someone with cognitive or behavioral problems.
There are many mental and behavioral disorders due to the damage of the brain and other neurological disorders. It can be differentiated from a psychiatrist, neurologist, therapist, and a neuropsychologist. If the problem seems to be treatable in the long run then the neuropsychologist performs some tests with which the severity of the cognitive functions can be ruled out and important measures and treatment plans are made and maintained by them.
Psychological and brain disorders have been found their origin a long back. Hippocrates argued that the brain directly affected behavior. Philosopher Rene Descartes was intensely fascinated by how the mind arises from the brain but he was criticized for using unscientific methods.
In the late 19th century, Neuropsychology came into existence and brain science continued to advance through the 20th century. Then the importance of the chemicals in our brain known as neurotransmitters and hormones came into existence and came to know that certain parts of the brain are responsible to control certain functions of the body. This awareness gave birth to modern neuropsychology.
What Does Neuropsychology Treat?
Neuropsychological problems which give birth to the mental/psychological problems are what neuropsychology treats:
- Autism Spectrum Disorders
- Learning Disorders
- Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
- Endocrine Disorders
- Brain Tumors
- Brain Cancers
- Motor Neuron Diseases
- Experimental Neuropsychology:
Experimental Neuropsychology is an approach that uses experimental psychology to understand the relationship between the nervous system and cognitive function. The work involves studying humans and sometimes animals in a laboratory setting to make links between neuroanatomy and psychological functions.
- Clinical Neuropsychology:
Clinical Neuropsychology is the approach in which the neuropsychological tests and assessments have been used to make treatment plans for the treatment of the people who have suffered from a brain injury which has led to the neurocognitive problems.
It brings a psychological aspect in the treatment of the disorders. Clinical Neuropsychologists often work in hospital settings, private practice, and medico-legal proceedings. The people who have suffered from the brain or neurological injuries, studying them gives an understanding of how clinical neuropsychology works.
- Functional Localization:
One model of neuropsychological functioning is functional localization which is based on the principle that if some cognitive problem occurs because of the injury in the specific areas of the brain then it is likely to be possible that this injured part of the brain is involved in some way. Another alternative model which is known as the parallel processing may be explanatory enough for the working and dysfunction of the human brain.
Connectionism refers to the process where artificial neural networks are used in order to model specific cognitive processes. In this, once trained to perform a specific cognitive task these networks are damaged to stimulate the injury in order to understand and compare the result to the effect of brain injury in humans.
- Functional Neuroimaging:
Functional Neuroimaging uses neuroimaging techniques to take readings from the brain, while a person doing a task in order to understand how the actions of a particular area of the brain are related to the task. FMRI (Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging) techniques are developed in order to study the brain & behavior relationship.
Neuropsychologists have more training in neuropsychology than a psychologist and because of this extra training, they become an expert in ruling out the neurological problems as well as psychological problems. When he/she suspects a neurological problem then a neurological assessment is done by the neuropsychologist in order to understand the problem and make the treatment plan accordingly. The several areas in which the neuropsychologist focus while assessing are:
- Executive Functioning:
These skills are necessary for planning, attention, remembering and executing instructions and multi-tasking. It regulates the distractions and allows in organizing and prioritizing. These skills are important in achieving goals.
- Focus & Attention:
Well in order to achieve the goal focusing on the target and posing attention on the target is important. These skills benefit in navigating and maintaining social relationships. Problems in having these skills result in ADHD (attention deficit hyperactive disorders)
- Intellectual Functioning:
It is the ability to think, plan, reason and communicate effectively. These skills help in learning, solving problems, and practicing judgment.
- Academic Functioning:
Academic functioning is important in order to have good academic results and being competitive in the world as well. Lack of academic functioning leads to a lack of achievement and psychological distress/disorders.
- Adaptive Functioning:
If a person has adaptive functioning then he has the ability to interact with others easily in different situations.
- Personality Assessment:
It is a test that predicts the behavior of the individual in various settings such as school, home life, work, interpersonal, and other areas.
- Motor Speed/Skills and Coordination:
These tests are designed in order to assess motor speed/reaction time and coordination skills and these tests are helpful in diagnosing any neurological disorders.
These tests assess the memory of the individual- immediate, immediate-recent, late-recent and remote memories. These tests help in ruling out the problems in the memory functioning caused because of neurological problems.
- Speech & Language:
These tests assess the clarity of speech, whether there is any pressure of speech or lack of speech. The language is assessed on the basis of sudden changes in the language or there have been any new words included in the language. These tests again help in ruling the underlying neurological problems.
- Visuo-Construction Abilities:
These tests assess whether the individual is able to organize and plan visually and use fine motor skills effectively.
The neurological assessments are important for distinguishing and diagnosing neurological and psychological disorders. Mini-Mental Status Examination is the first and foremost test that is being used with these patients. It includes assessments of memory, speech, language, and visuomotor skills. There are many other assessments ranging from simple visuomotor Bender Gestalt Test to full Neuropsychological Battery, these are used according to the severity of the problem. The neuropsychologist gathers information from the tests that have been conducted and after evaluating the tests which include other laboratory tests and diagnoses from other mental health professionals, a proper treatment plan is developed. Then the medication, rehabilitation, hospitalization or care at home is recommended to the patient or his primary caregivers.
These tests and evaluations help in finding any underlying neurological disorder which triggers cognitive and behavioral issues. Usually, it is the psychiatrist or the psychologist who refers to a neuropsychologist but sometimes other medical doctors also refer and rely on the neuropsychologists for diagnosing and treating neurological disorders.
NEUROPSYCHOLOGY IN THERAPY:
The brain is and always be a mystery and neuropsychology is the field that primarily works in this field. Before neuropsychology came into existence it was always the work on behavior rather which part of the brain is responsible for the behavior. Neuropsychology has ultimately given better insights and ways to therapists on how the brain works and what medicines and therapy would help the patient and when. Some therapists are trained professionals in the field of neuropsychology, some in psychology or psychiatry, some trained as physicians, all of them have a single motto which is to treat the patient effectively with all the facts known and work with a variety of technologies for the same.
Neuropsychology is the field of brain and it primarily focuses on the conditions that affect the health of the brain such as Alzheimer’s and Traumatic Brain Injury and it evaluates the reasons behind the change in the function of the brain and behavior of the individual. Neuropsychologists conduct tests and assessments in order to measure problems behind mental health. They consult with other medical professionals and rely on laboratory tests to diagnose, prepare a treatment plan and treat the problem. Treatment approaches include neurofeedback, then the therapist offers feedback to the client on how to improve brain activities in order to have better mental health.
Sometimes neuropsychologists try to use trial and error and make necessary alterations to test their effectiveness. The therapist may recommend first some medications, then some others if they didn’t work to reduce the symptoms and then focus on other measures.
HOW NEUROPSYCHOLOGY AFFECTS THERAPEUTIC OUTCOMES:
Neuropsychology is a bit new approach and so far it has influenced many therapeutic traditions. Mindfulness-based approaches to stress management are based on data suggesting that mindfulness can change brain activity and treat some symptoms of mental health issues. The idea of alteration in the brain is known as neuroplasticity, especially patterns of response has increased a lot of attention among mental health professionals.
One typical pattern of response among humans is the negativity bias the fact that our brains get fixed on negative events and feelings. Neuropsychology believes that we can control and change this pattern and that it’s us only who can make things work, many psychologists believe in this philosophy and follow it. Some neuropsychological methods are new and remain untested, so it is important for people pursuing neuropsychological therapy to learn about the treatment of the individuals as the therapist and doctors recommend.
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