What Type of Psychologist Studies the Brain?
All psychologists spend some portion of their graduate studies examining the interactions between the brain and human behavior. But psychologists whose career focus is on studying the brain and the interaction between different systems in the brain and behavior are known as neuropsychologists. Neuropsychologists perform research, teach and provide clinical services in different work settings, such as hospitals, academic institutions and private practices.
Education and Training
In most cases, neuropsychologists who specialize in research have doctoral degrees in psychology, with a specialization in neuropsychology. However, some research assistants or psychological assistants in hospital neuropsychology units hospitals may have master’s degrees in neuropsychology. Clinical neuropsychologists have doctoral degrees in psychology and specialized training in neuropsychology. In addition to a doctoral degree, they must usually complete pre-doctoral internships and post-doctoral studies in neuropsychology. To be eligible for board certification, they must have completed at least two years of supervised training in clinical neuropsychology and two to three years of experience in neuropsychology, according to the American Board of Professional Psychology.
What They Do
In addition to research and teaching, neuropsychologists also often provide clinical services, such as assessment, diagnosis, consultation, treatment and prevention. They may evaluate patients who present with cognitive, neurological or psychological disorders and suggest or implement specific interventions to improve their functioning and well-being. They also evaluate and provide diagnoses for children and adolescents suspected of having learning disorders, and conduct neuropsychological testing to assess factors such as intelligence, academic functioning, attention and concentration in both children and adults.
Where They Work
Neuropsychologists who conduct research are employed in diverse settings, such as universities, drug company laboratories and governmental research organizations. They may combine their research activities with academia, often teaching psychology courses to undergraduate and graduate students or providing clinical supervision. Clinical neuropsychologists may work in settings such as private practice, hospitals, schools or rehabilitation clinics. In many settings, clinical neuropsychologists are members of multidisciplinary health care teams, which may include professionals like occupational therapists, social workers and physical therapists.
Neuropsychologists might also choose sub-specializations, such as pediatrics, geriatrics, head injuries, psychopathology or forensics. Sub-specialization requires additional education, training and experience. Many neuropsychologists decide to become board certified by the American Board of Clinical Neuropsychology. The board certification process entails submitting proof of education, credentials and experience, passing a written and oral examination and submitting two practice samples involving case examples taken from interactions with patients.