A neuropsychologist is a psychologist who specializes in understanding the relationship between the physical brain and behavior. The brain is complex. Disorders within the brain and nervous system can alter behavior and cognitive function.
According to the University of Rochester Medical Center, the role of a neuropsychologist is to understand how brain structures and systems relate to behavior and thinking.
Neuropsychologists have a doctorate in psychology and training in neuropsychology. They often work in research or clinical settings.
What they do
Neuropsychologists evaluate and treat people with various types of nervous system disorders. They work closely with doctors, including neurologists.
Illnesses, injuries, and diseases of the brain and nervous system can affect the way a person feels, thinks, and behaves. Symptoms that may call for a neuropsychologist include:
- memory difficulties
- mood disturbances
- learning difficulties
- nervous system dysfunction
If other doctors can’t identify the cause of a symptom, a neuropsychologist can help determine a diagnosis. If a diagnosis is already known, an assessment can still be helpful.
A neuropsychologist can help determine what impairments you might have and how severe they are. The following are examples of conditions they evaluate and treat:
- A stroke can affect behavior, thinking, memory, and other brain functions in obvious or subtle ways. They can perform an evaluation to help determine the degree of stroke impairment.
- Parkinson’s disease, a progressive disorder, can cause several neurological problems. A neuropsychologist’s exam can provide a baseline to help them determine disease progression and decreased function.
- Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia can interfere with memory, personality, and cognitive abilities. A neuropsychologist can perform an exam to help them identify it in its early stage.
- Traumatic brain injuries can cause a wide variety of symptoms. A neuropsychologist can help determine how an injury affects functions like reasoning or problem-solving skills.
- A neuropsychologist can help determine which of the many types of learning disabilities someone has and develop a treatment plan.
The nervous system is complex. Neuropsychologists use different types of procedures to identify problems and treatment plans. Typical procedures they perform include:
This evaluation is an assessment of how your brain functions. The evaluation will include an interview and questions that will help outline your performance of daily tasks, as well as identify memory issues and mental health concerns. The interview will also cover information on symptoms, medical history, and medications you take.
An evaluation includes different types of standardized tests to measure many areas of brain function, including:
- cognitive ability
Brain scans, such as CT or MRI scans, can also help a neuropsychologist make a diagnosis.
Your neuropsychologist will compare your test results with those of other people with a similar education and age.
Evaluation and test results may help determine the cause of an issue when other methods don’t work. Tests can even help identify mild thinking and memory issues, which may be subtle.
Neuropsychologists help develop a treatment plan by understanding how the brain functions and how that functioning relates to behavior. Treatment plans may include medication, rehabilitation therapy, or surgery.
A neuropsychologist can help diagnose a cognitive, behavioral, or neurological condition. Seeing a neuropsychologist and completing their tests can lead to a deeper understanding of your condition. When other doctors might not be able to diagnose an issue, consider seeing a neuropsychologist.