What Does a Neuropsychologist Do, Exactly?

A neuropsychologist really looks at the interplay between how the brain functions and what the brain does, and how that impacts what you do in the rest of your life-- socially, emotionally, physically, cognitively. The bulk of what a neuropsychologist does is that through assessment, we administer a battery of tests that tap into different functions of the brain. So some of the tests, we'll look at whole brain function. Some of the tests, we'll look really very specific functions of different areas of the brain, to kind of look at how they're all working together or not working together, and then to apply that to difficulties that people may be having in their life, as the result of an injury or an accident or some kind of disease process. It's really--largely it's a diagnostic field. that really looks at more closely why people are acting the way that they are acting based on how their brain is processing information. A subset of that is a rehabilitation neuropsychologist who does much of the same kind of assessment, but then also works in the rehabilitation world and helps a lot of the treatment team, in terms of their ability to implement some of their therapeutic practices, based on what we've learned about how the brain is functioning. Neuropsychologists can do some cognitive rehabilitation themselves. Very often it is referred out to other disciplines, occupational therapy, speech therapy. We also can do some therapy, again, based on--largely it's based on adjustment to disability and injury, dealing with some of the psycho-social issues that go along with acquiring some kind of a disability, and adjusting to the fact that your brain is not working the way that it used to. Most people don't think about all of the stuff that their brain does, so that when it's not functioning properly, they have a sense of "I don't feel like myself," and are not quite sure why that is. So a neuropsychologist may do a lot of education about why that is, based on the results of the tests that we've got.

Neuropsychologists look at the interplay between what a person's brain does and how he acts in his life -- emotionally, physically, socially, and so forth.

Celeste Campbell

Dr. Celeste Campbell is a neuropsychologist in the Polytrauma Program at the Washington, DC Veterans Administration Medical Center. She has a long history of providing cognitive psychotherapy and developing residential behavioral management programs for children and adults.

Posted on BrainLine February 7, 2011

Produced by Victoria Tilney McDonough and Brian King, BrainLine.

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