Neuropsychology: What Is It And What Is Its Object Of Study?

An interdisciplinary field that relates behavior to human brain activity.

Before learning about this branch of psychology, it is convenient to know what neurosciences are, since neuropsychology is just that, a science focused on the nervous system.

Neurosciences, as its name indicates, are a discipline that includes many sciences, which are responsible for studying the nervous system from different points of view, thus contributing to a better understanding and understanding of it: we are talking about neurology, psychology , biology, chemistry, pharmacology, genetics, among others.

What is neuropsychology?

Having understood the above, now if we should ask ourselves, what then is neuropsychology? It is a neuroscience whose main objective is the study of the brain and the relationship between this organ and people’s behavior. He is interested in studying healthy people as well as those who have suffered some brain damage.

Main features

These are the aspects that characterize neuropsychology.

1. Neuroscientific character

As already mentioned, it is a behavioral neuroscience that relies on the natural scientific method to be able to study the brain, it helps with the hypothetical-deductive procedure (it elaborates a hypothesis, and then discards or corroborates it, this depending on the results that exist after experimentation) and sometimes the analytical-inductive (carry out experiments, so that you can test the functional relationship between different controlled variables).

2. Study of higher mental functions

He is interested in studying the neural bases of any human being, and how these correlate with various mental processes such as: thinking, executive functions, language, memory, motor skills, perception, etc.

3. Has a great interest in the associative cerebral cortex

Neuropsychology cares a great deal about this cortex for two specific reasons. The first is because this area of ​​the brain has as its main responsibility all higher cognitive processes. And the second, due to the fact that unfortunately it is one of the parts that tends to be affected the most when there is some disease or disorder; This then results in very diverse damages to the mental functions already mentioned above.

Although it is not the only area that can lead to this, affectations to the corpus callosum, basal ganglia, hippocampus, amygdala, thalamus and cerebellum also trigger cognitive and emotional deterioration.

4. Makes a study of the adverse effects arising from brain injuries

The following must be made clear: neuropsychology and clinical neuropsychology are not the same. The first focuses on studying the brain-behavior relationship in healthy subjects, and to some extent it can be understood and seen as cognitive neuroscience. And the second treats only those people who acquire some damage to their nervous system and disorders that derive from it: aphasias, amnesias, apraxia, agnosias, etc.

5. It focuses solely and exclusively on the human being

Just as there is “human” neuropsychology, so to speak, there is also neuropsychology that is interested in the brain-behavior relationship of other mammalian species, each one has its own field, its own specificity.

It should be noted that there are notable differences between the two, one of them is the fact that the cognitive processes of humans are very different at a qualitative and quantitative level from those of animals; for example, the proportion and extent in the neocortex of some animal differ greatly from that of man.

The knowledge that can be acquired of both species also goes in different directions, it is not possible, for example, to induce experimental lesions of the nervous system in people (only in rare cases in which there is a therapeutic neurosurgery). That is why psychophysiological research with animals has been valuable to understand in a certain way some basic processes of human beings, but it is by no means the same, it is not possible to establish total generalizations between what happens with them and us, for As mentioned above, there are notable differences between one nervous system and another.

6. Interdisciplinary

Neuropsychology was born as an autonomous entity thanks to the contributions and work of many other disciplines such as neurology, biology, neurophysiology, neurochemistry, experimental psychology, pharmacology, cognitive psychology, among others.

This interdisciplinary character also goes in the sense that clinical neuropsychologists work hand in hand with other health professionals for the evaluation and treatment of brain damage: neurologists, neurosurgeons, physiotherapists, speech therapists, occupational therapists, clinical psychologists, etc.

Bibliographic references:

  • Antonio, PP (2010). Introduction to neuropsychology. Madrid: McGraw-Hill.

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