What is Neuropsychology?
Neuropsychology is a specialised field of neuroscience (psychology) which aims to understand the relationship between brain function and human behaviour.
Neuropsychology blends information from both neurology and psychology and studies how the brain and central nervous system affect everyday functioning.
Clinical neuropsychology utilises various assessment methods to determine function and dysfunction and applies this knowledge to evaluate, treat and rehabilitate individuals with suspected or known neurological or psychological problems.
What is a Clinical Neuropsychologist?
Clinical Neuropsychologists specialise in the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of psychological disorders associated with various brain conditions.
Clinical Neuropsychologists study the changes in cognition (ie. memory, language, intellect, problem solving, etc.), behaviour and personality, which may arise from any form of brain dysfunction.
Neuropsychologists have advanced skills in the assessment, diagnosis and rehabilitation of a range of disorders and contexts across the lifespan.
The specialty of clinical neuropsychology is recognized by the Psychology Board of Australia (PBA). Psychologists that have the relevant training and expertise to conduct neuropsychological assessments and interventions are provided with a "Clinical Neuropsychology Practice Endorsement" by the PBA. In Australia, the specialised training for Clinical Neuropsychologists requires a minimum two year postgraduate Masters or three year Doctoral degree in Clinical Neuropsychology, which includes up to 1500 hours of clinical supervision experience under the mentoring of senior Clinical Neuropsychologists. To achieve the Clinical Neuropsychology Practice Endorsement, a further 1-2 years full-time equivalent neuropsychological practice with supervision by a Clinical Neuropsychologist is required. Only 1.3% of Australian registered psychologists have the Clinical Neuropsychology Practice Endorsement.
What is entailed in a Neuropsychological Assessment?
Neuropsychological assessment involves the objective and quantitative measurement and evaluation of cognitive, emotional and behavioural function through interview, observation and psychological testing. This information is combined with results from medical investigations and neuroimaging, as well as collateral history.
Neuropsychological evaluation is a complex and comprehensive process that integrates information from a wide variety of sources which assists in obtaining a clear picture of the person’s current level of functioning as well as their strengths and weaknesses.
Neuropsychology assessment procedures take into account factors such as the patient’s age, estimated premorbid level of functioning and educational attainment, allowing judgments to be made regarding integrity or otherwise of brain function. No other assessment method can provide this level of sensitivity, reliability and validity in detecting and monitoring cognitive change. This type of assessment can detect subtle changes of cognitive impairment which may not be detected on standard gross screening measures or neuroimaging.
Neuropsychological assessment is valued as providing a baseline for future comparison of changes over time given some neurological conditions can worsen or improve with time and treatment.
A full neuropsychological assessment can take between three to six hours face to face depending on the client and reason for referral.