A neuropsychologist is an expert in how brain injuries and conditions affect your behavior, mood and thinking skills. They perform neuropsychological evaluations to assess how your brain and mind are working and suggest treatment plans.
A neuropsychologist is a healthcare provider who has specialized knowledge of how brain conditions affect your behavior and cognitive skills (how you use your brain). This includes things like your:
There are two main types of neuropsychologists:
The field of neuropsychology explores the connections between the thoughts and perceptions of the human mind and the brain structures and biological processes that form them. Neuropsychology is a subspecialty of psychology, not of neurology.
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You’d see a neuropsychologist if your healthcare provider (such as your primary care physician or neurologist) referred you for neuropsychological testing. This most often happens when you experience changes to your cognitive functioning, such as new issues with memory, focus, language or personality. The change(s) may be due to certain medical, neurological, psychological or genetic causes.
Neuropsychologists perform task-oriented testing for people of all ages, including infants, children, adolescents and adults.
Some of the more common conditions neuropsychologists assess include:
It’s important to note that care for these conditions often involves a variety of specialists.
Clinical neuropsychologists perform neuropsychological exams to help you and your healthcare team understand how the different areas and systems of your brain are working.
Several different task-oriented tests assess specific cognitive functions. For example, you may have to recall a list of words or draw a copy of an object.
Clinical neuropsychologists assess people who’ve had sudden injuries, such as a concussion or a stroke. They also assess people who have chronic neurological conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease. They may be involved in diagnosing certain conditions or in assessing the progression of an already-diagnosed condition.
For an exam, a clinical neuropsychologist:
Neuropsychologists work closely with other healthcare providers as part of a holistic care team. The report they put together after testing helps other providers fully understand the effect of your brain injury or condition. It helps guide your team in making any treatment decisions.
Cognitive neuropsychologists mainly work in research. They conduct research studies to expand the field of neuropsychology and develop new testing practices. Unlike clinical neuropsychologists, they don’t usually work directly with people seeking care.
The main difference between a neuropsychologist and a psychologist is how they approach aspects of human behavior.
Psychologists have specialized knowledge of how your life experiences affect your mental and behavioral health. Neuropsychologists have specialized knowledge of how biological factors and brain issues affect your behavior and other cognitive functions.
A neurologist is a medical doctor who diagnoses, treats and manages disorders that affect your nervous system — your brain, spinal cord and nerves. They’re experts on the anatomy, function and conditions that affect your nervous system.
A neuropsychologist focuses on how brain issues affect behavior and cognitive functions. They aren’t medical doctors and they can’t prescribe medications, unlike neurologists.
To become a clinical neuropsychologist, you must complete:
Licensed neuropsychologists also need to complete continuing education every year to stay up to date with advances in their field. Continuing education may include conferences, research and classes.
No, neuropsychologists don’t go to medical school for their profession. You don’t need a medical doctoral degree (MD or DO) to be a licensed neuropsychologist.
It typically takes 10 to 13 years to become a licensed neuropsychologist. It depends on how quickly you can earn a bachelor’s degree and a doctoral degree. You’ll also need to complete a one-year, full-time internship during graduate school and a two-year fellowship in neuropsychology.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
It can be worrying to experience changes in how your brain works. Know that a neuropsychologist can help you better understand these changes and how they’ll affect you. They’re experts in their field and have up-to-date knowledge of the ways in which your physical brain and mind are connected. Your neuropsychologist will work with you and your healthcare team to determine a treatment plan that works best for you.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 02/10/2023.
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