The Basics of Clinical Neuropsychology and Neurocognitive Rehabilitation

Cognitive neuroscience is the study of how the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) gives rise to higher-order cognitive functions such as attention, memory, language, and various intellective abilities such as planning and organizational abilities as well as mathematical and visual-spatial skills. The clinical application of cognitive neuroscience to brain-injured patients is the field of clinical neuropsychology.

Clinical neuropsychology evaluates and assesses higher cognitive abilities that may have been compromised by disease or trauma to the brain such as multiple sclerosis, stroke, epilepsy, dementia, traumatic brain injury due to a traumatic external event to the brain (e.g., slipping on pavement and hitting one’s head) and other internal and external events that affect brain function.

The rehabilitation and remediation of brain function may occur through surgery, the use of various drugs (such as cholinesterase inhibitors in Alzheimer’s disease), as well as through the use of neurocognitive rehabilitation. Neurocognitive rehabilitation involves the use of cognitive training programs and external memory aids, often computer- or technology-based (e.g., use of an electronic organizer or smartphone), to rehabilitate cognitive functions like attention, memory, and similar intellective abilities in individuals who have compromised higher-order cognitive abilities.

Clinical neuropsychology is also used to assess the effects of psychoactive drugs on higher-order cognitive functions as well as assess individuals ability to work, live independently, and the like. Neuropsychological evaluation and assessment uses various mental tasks to assess higher-order cognitive functions in children (such as learning disabilities, problems in attention and concentration, and emotional issues), adolescents (such as depression and psychosis), and adults and late-age adults (such as cerebrovascular disorders affecting higher-order cognitive functions, dementia, and compromised language abilities after stroke).

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