Summary: Neuropsychology

Neuropsychology is the study of brain/behavior relationships. The brain can also be injured by strokes, or cerebrovascular accidents, which refers to anything cutting off the supply of blood to a brain area. Neuropsychologists have discovered a variety of brain injury syndromes related to injury in specific areas.

Aphasias are usually caused by damage to the left hemisphere in Broca's or Wernicke's area. The lobotomy, an operation which involved disconnecting the frontal lobe from the rest of the brain, produced serious consequences such as a lack of creativity or ability to plan for the future. The parietal syndrome (due to damage to the parietal lobe) involves spatial processing. People with this syndrome often get lost and they show other symptoms of spatial disorganization. Prosopagnosia or facial blindness is an example of an exotic, highly specific disorder. People with this problem have a special problem recognizing faces.

Neuropsychologists also study brain stimulation. Wilder Penfield stimulated the exposed brains of patients on the operating table. They reported a variety of psychological effects. Other researchers showed brain stimulation could produce emotional reactions such as aggression and rage.

Seizures themselves resemble natural brain stimulation experiments. Some epileptic individuals experience distinctive feelings before a seizure. These are called "auras," and many occur occasionally in non-epileptic people as well. They include odors, feelings of dread, hallucinated sights or sounds, feelings that the environment is getting suddenly larger or smaller, and the déjà vu or déjà penseé sensations, in which everything seems familiar or feels as though it was predicted earlier.

One influence of neuropsychology has been the recognition of modular organization in the nervous system, which implies that the brain has different specialized areas and different ways of being "intelligent." Howard Gardner, whose book Frames of Mind outlined seven different types of intelligence, derived his theory in part from the study of brain-damaged patients. He defined eight different types of intelligence, each of which can be subdivided into sub-types.


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Copyright © 2007 Russ Dewey