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Clinical Neuropsychology

What is a clinical neuropsychologist?  According to the National Academy of Neuropsychology (2001):  “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, diagnoses, treatment, and/or rehabilitation of patients across the lifespan with neurological, medical, neurodevelopmental, and other psychiatric conditions as well as other cognitive and learning disorders.”  Put more simply, a clinical neuropsychologist examines how well your brain is functioning in terms of short-term memory, speech, attention, and other cognitive functions mainly through tests that generally involve a question and answer format. 


Neuropsychological Assessment is often used to help with diagnosis and treatment planning of many medical conditions that are neurological and/or psychiatric in nature such as:

  • Alzheimer’s dementia
  • Frontotemporal dementia
  • Lewy body dementia
  • Vascular dementia
  • Head injury
  • Epilepsy
  • Toxic exposure (i.e. lead, pesticides)
  • Anoxic injuries (loss of oxygen to the brain)
  • Other

Dementia is “an acquired persistent impairment of intellectual function with compromise in at least three of the following spheres of mental activity:  language, memory, visuospatial skills, emotion or personality, and cognition (abstraction, calculation, judgment, executive functioning, and so forth)” (Cummings, et al., 1980a).  Many people think that the term dementia is synonymous with Alzheimer’s dementia.  Alzheimer’s is just one type of dementia.  Just like there are many different types of headaches, there are many different types of dementia.  For example, the second most common type of dementia is called Lewy body dementia.  The correct diagnosis of a specific type of dementia or other causes for a decline in someone’s cognition often determines what treatment options are available. 

Cummings, J. L., Benson, D. F., & LoVerme, S., Jr. (1980).  Reversible Dementia.  JAMA, 243, 2434-2439.