What is a Neuropsychologist?
Neuropsychologists are professionals who have specialist knowledge in the assessment, diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation of people who have cognitive or behavioural difficulties which may be related to a brain injury or disease. Often these include patients with a history of any of the following problems:
- Head injury
- Failure to achieve developmental milestones
- Learning or attention deficits
- Exposure to drugs, alcohol, or maternal illness in utero
- Exposure to chemicals, toxins, or heavy metals
- Parkinson disease
- Seizure disorders
- Substance abuse
- Psychiatric disorders
Referrals are typically made by physicians who wish to clarify diagnoses and also obtain information or recommendations critical to a patient’s treatment or rehabilitation. Referrals also typically come from people (or their family) who are concerned about aspects of their cognitive function (often memory) and want to know the cause.
Neuropsychological tests are a series of measures that identify cognitive impairment and functioning in individuals. They provide quantifiable data about the following aspects of cognition:
- Reasoning and problem-solving ability
- Ability to understand and express language
- Working memory and attention
- Short-term and long-term memory
- Processing speed
- Visual-spatial organization
- Visual-motor coordination
- Planning, synthesizing, and organizing abilities
Neuropsychologists are skilled in integrating and interpreting neuropsychological data with data from neurologic and other medical sources, as well as psychosocial, cultural and behavioural data.
In New Zealand, the term “Neuropsychologist” is protected under the Health Practitioners Competence Assurance Act (2003), and is used by those who have satisfied the New Zealand Psychologists Board that they have completed the necessary specialty training (both academic and practice hours).