4.1 Cognitive functioning and neuropsychology

What is cognitive functioning / cognition?

The terms cognition and cognitive functioning are generally used when referring to someone's thinking processes - such as attention, problem solving, learning, memory, language and ‘higher level’ thinking processes, for example; decision making, planning and abstract reasoning skills.

The following animation shows, using a flow chart, the individual cognitive processes that are involved in the 'higher level' process of memorising an important phone number.

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The above animation gives some examples of cognitive processes. Now try and come up with as many other cognitive processes that you would use in your own cognition.

What is neuropsychology?

Neuropsychology is the scientific study of the relationship between the brain and behaviour. Behaviour includes actions that are observed, emotions and cognitive functions.

What is a neuropsychologist?

A neuropsychologist is a registered psychologist with specialised training in the area of Neuropsychology. They are often based at a hospital or rehabilitation unit and work with different groups of people with acquired brain injury, including traumatic brain injury, stroke, dementia, neurological disorders and alcohol related brain damage.

In a TBI setting, a neuropsychologist will:

  • Perform a neuropsychological assessment to establish a profile of cognitive strengths and weaknesses following a TBI
  • Provide feedback of neuropsychological findings to: o The person themselves o The family o Services involved with the client
  • Work with the client, their family, their carers, therapists and other services involved in their rehabilitation to develop and recommend strategies to help compensate for cognitive and behavioural changes

How does a neuropsychologist assess cognitive and behavioural changes?

A comprehensive neuropsychological assessement includes:

  • Clinical interview
  • History taking
  • Getting a corroborative history from others
  • Clinical observation
  • Neuropsychological testing – using a range of standardised tests that have been restricted for use and interpretation by registered psychologists

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