Neuropsychology definitions & scope

Neuropsychology is a branch of psychology that focuses on the relationship between the brain and behavior. Neuropsychology is a structured, objective, and scientific discipline that studies the brain and tries to associate various behaviors of the individuals to the changes that come about in the brain. Here we will explore the Neuropsychology definitions & scope.

Definitions of Neuropsychology 

According to the American Psychological Association (APA)- Neuropsychology is the branch of science that studies the physiological processes of the nervous system and relates them to behavior and cognition, in terms both of their normal function and of the dysfunctional processes associated with brain damage.

Bigler (2015) defined Neuropsychology as “the scientific study of the relationship between behavior, cognition, and emotion on the one hand, and brain function and structure on the other.”

According to Breedlove, Watson and Rosenzweig (2010) Neuropsychology is “a branch of psychology that is concerned with how the brain and the rest of the nervous system influence a person’s cognition and behaviors.”

Neuropsychology is “a discipline that explores the relationships between brain function and behavior, including cognitive abilities, emotions, and social functioning.” (Lezak at el., 2012)

Goldstein (2015) defined Neuropsychology is “the study of brain-behavior relationships, with an emphasis on understanding how brain dysfunction affects cognitive, emotional, and behavioral functioning.”

Neuropsychology is “a field of psychology that aims to understand how the structure and function of the brain influence behavior and cognition, often through the assessment and treatment of individuals with neurological conditions.” (Kolb & Whishaw, 2015).

Neuropsychology is “a specialized area of psychology that investigates the relationship between brain function and behavior, often employing various assessment techniques to understand and address cognitive deficits arising from brain injury or neurological disorders.” (Sternberg, R. J., & Sternberg, K. (2016).

These definitions provide a comprehensive understanding of neuropsychology and its focus on the intricate relationship between brain function and behavior.

Scope of Neuropsychology

Neuropsychology, crossroads of neuroscience and psychology, investigates into the intricate relationship between the brain and our cognitive and behavioral relations.

Its scope is as vast as the human mind itself, encompassing a diverse array of domains where the invisible dance of neurons impacts our daily lives.

1. Neurocognitive Assessment: At the heart of neuropsychology lies the meticulous art of assessment. Neuropsychologists employ standardized tests and specialized techniques to evaluate functions such as

  • Memory,
  • Learning- Verbal & Visual 
  • Attention,
  • language,
  • Intellectual Functioning,
  • Speed processing,
  • sensory-perceptual functions,
  • Personality assessment,
  • Motor Speed, 
  • Visuospatial ability.

Often conducted after brain injuries or neurological disorders, paint a detailed picture of individual strengths and weaknesses, informing diagnosis, treatment planning, and rehabilitation strategies.

  1. Rehabilitation and Intervention:

Neuropsychology doesn’t just diagnose; it empowers.

Rehabilitation forms a cornerstone of the field, aiming to enhance functional capabilities of individuals facing cognitive and behavioral challenges.

Techniques like cognitive retraining, mindfulness training, and compensatory strategies bridge the gap between limitations and daily living, empowering individuals to regain control and independence.

  1. Forensic Neuropsychology:

The courtroom becomes a stage for neuropsychology in its forensic application.

Here, neuropsychologists assess defendants’ competency to stand trial, evaluate the impact of brain injuries on criminal behavior, and assist in legal decision-making.

Their expertise sheds light on complex questions surrounding criminal responsibility and rehabilitation potential.

  1. Developmental Neuropsychology:
  • As we journey through life, the brain’s symphony undergoes constant adaptations.
  • Developmental neuropsychology focuses on the complicated interplay between brain development, cognitive abilities, and behavior throughout the lifespan. (Paiget, vygotsky)
  • By understanding typical and atypical development,
  • Neuropsychologists offer insights into learning difficulties, cognitive disorders in children and adolescents, and age-related cognitive changes.

5 Cognitive Neuroscience and Research:

  • Neuropsychology transcends clinical practice, fueling the engine of research in cognitive neuroscience.
  • By collaborating with neuroscientists, neuropsychologists investigate fundamental questions about how the brain gives rise to thought, emotion, and behavior.
  • Their insights inform our understanding of healthy and diseased brains, paving the way for future advancements in diagnosis, treatment, and brain-computer interfaces.
  • From clinical practice to research, from the courtroom to the classroom, neuropsychology continues to weave a fascinating tapestry of knowledge, offering hope and understanding to individuals navigating the intricate landscape of brain and behavior.

History of Neuropsychology

Its journey through time is a captivating tale of curiosity, discovery, and continuous evolution.

Ancient :

The quest to understand the brain’s influence on our inner world stretches back to ancient civilizations.

In 3000 BC, the Egyptians believed the heart housed intellect, while the Greeks, like Hippocrates (460-377 BC), recognized the brain’s significance in thought and emotion.

The pioneering Romans, including Galen (129-216 AD), dissected brains and mapped cranial nerves, laying the groundwork for future anatomical explorations.

Medieval : From Humors to Head Injuries

  • The Middle Ages witnessed a shift towards humoral theory, attributing personality and cognitive abilities to the balance of bodily fluids.
  • However, observations of head injuries and their impact on behavior, documented by Arab scholars like Avicenna (980-1037 AD), kept the flame of brain-behavior inquiry flickering.

Renaissance : Dissecting the Mind Through the Body

  • The Renaissance ushered in a period of anatomical rediscovery.
  • Andreas Vesalius (1514-1564) meticulously depicted brain structures, while René Descartes (1596-1650) proposed the mind-body dualism, placing the brain at the center of thought and consciousness.

Phrenology and the Search for Localization

  • The Enlightenment era saw a surge in interest in brain localization.
  • Franz Joseph Gall (1758-1828), the father of phrenology, believed specific mental faculties resided in distinct brain regions, mapped on the skull’s surface.
  • While phrenology’s specific claims were later debunked, it fueled the quest to understand brain-function relationships

Modern : Unveiling the Brain’s Symphony

  • The 19th century marked a turning point with the emergence of neurological case studies.
  • Paul Broca discovered that damage to a specific area of the frontal lobe was associated with language deficits, a condition now known as Broca’s aphasia (Broca, 1861).
  • Carl Wernicke later identified a region in the left temporal lobe associated with language comprehension, now known as Wernicke’s area (Wernicke, 1874)..
  • These findings ignited the field of cognitive neuropsychology, linking specific brain areas to distinct cognitive functions.

20th Century Tapestry: Technological Advancements and Theoretical Refinements

  • The 20th century witnessed a dazzling array of advancements. Electroencephalography (EEG) recorded electrical activity in the brain, revealing its dynamic nature.
  • Neuroimaging techniques like CT scans and fMRI allowed for non-invasive visualization of brain structures and functions during cognitive tasks.
  • Theories of neuropsychology flourished, with Donald Hebb’s work on the neural basis of learning, published in his book “The Organization of Behavior” in 1949, laid the foundation for understanding the neural mechanisms of memory and learning i.e neuroplasticity.
  • Alexander Luria’s (1902-1977) pioneering neuropsychological assessment methods.

Contemporary :Field with Boundless Horizons

  • Today, neuropsychology stands as a vibrant and ever-evolving field.
  • Neuroplasticity research sheds light on the brain’s remarkable ability to adapt and reorganize, while cognitive rehabilitation strategies help individuals recover from brain injuries and neurological disorders.
  • Cutting-edge neuroimaging techniques like diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) and magnetoencephalography (MEG) offer increasingly detailed insights into brain networks and their dynamic interplay




Bigler, E. D. (2015). Neuropsychology and clinical neuroscience of persistent post-concussive syndrome. Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society, 21(6), 373-383.

Breedlove, S. M., Watson, N. V., & Rosenzweig, M. R. (2010). Biological psychology: An introduction to behavioral, cognitive, and clinical neuroscience (6th ed.). Sinauer Associates.

Lezak, M. D., Howieson, D. B., Bigler, E. D., & Tranel, D. (2012). Neuropsychological assessment (5th ed.). Oxford University Press.

Goldstein (2015). Cognitive psychology: Connecting mind, research, and everyday experience (4th ed.). Cengage Learning.)

Kolb, B., & Whishaw, I. Q. (2015). An introduction to brain and behavior (4th ed.). Worth Publishers.

Finger, S. (2009). Origins of neuroscience: A history of explorations into brain function. Oxford University Press.

Kolb, B., & Whishaw, I. Q. (2009). Fundamentals of human neuropsychology (6th ed.). Worth Publishers.

Pinel, J. P. J., & DeWit, L. E. (2016). Biopsychology (10th ed.). Pearson.



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