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A doctor who specializes in studying the psychological behaviors of a patient in relation to his brain function and brain structure is called a neuropsychologist. When neurosurgeons, psychiatrists, and other specialists want to assess a patient's brain function after a significant brain trauma, he or she is often called in. He or she is usually responsible for testing and assessing the patient's neuropsychological characteristics.
An individual who becomes a neuropsychologist usually needs to have a degree in psychology or doctorate training in psychology. As a psychologist, he or she may opt to undergo additional training in neuropsychology. This training often provides him with the necessary tools to become an expert in correlating brain and behavior functions in patients. He is often responsible for telling the patient's family as well as attending physicians the behavioral changes that may be expected in the patient as a result of trauma to the brain. These are extremely critical evaluations that can greatly help in dealing with the patient after such events.
Young patients, from infants to adolescents, may have different reactions to brain trauma. If a neuropsychologist wants to deal with patients in this age group, he can choose to undergo additional training. He will mostly be responsible in assessing children who have altered brain functions due to brain surgery or brain trauma. Similar with adult neuropsychologists, he is also expected to work with other medical specialists as part of the team dealing with these children.
Some animal studies may also require the expertise of a neuropsychologist. He is expected to analyze animal behavior patterns after an animal, usually a primate, undergoes a brain surgery procedure or has acquired a brain injury. The psychological processes of animals usually vary from those of humans, so a specialized training is frequently required for a person to be allowed to work with animals.
Many neuropsychologists also find themselves working regularly in universities, mostly participating in basic and clinical research. They may also involve themselves in a wide variety of clinical settings where they assist in treating patients suffering from neuropsychological problems. Some are working in forensic settings, where they can lend their expertise in court cases. Others may work in the pharmaceutical industry as product design and clinical trials consultants.
@strawCake - This does sound like kind of a cool job. However, I think I would hate the part where you have to deal with the family and explain what's going on to them.
I imagine that most people who have loved ones with traumatic brain injuries aren't exactly at their best. They're probably upset and stressed out! I think it would be hard to relate all the information to them. You would have to explain it to them in a way they understood (obviously the average person doesn't have the same knowledge of the brain as a neuropsychologist) and be sensitive at the same time.
I think it would be especially rough to be a pediatric neuropsychologist and have to give bad news to parents all the time.
I think the field of neuropsychology is so interesting. I remember learning about the brain in school, and I know that brain injuries can definitely change a persons behavior very drastically. And the behavioral changes can differ depending on what area of the brain is damaged.
I understand why this medical practitioner needs special training. Most psychologists deal with patients that have mood disorders that are caused by brain chemistry or traumatic events. I imagine it's totally different to deal with someone who has experienced a change in behavior because of a physical change to the brain.