In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Clinical Neuropsychology

  • Introduction
  • Definition
  • Textbooks and Handbooks
  • Journals
  • Hemispheric Specialization and Lobar/Regional Affiliation
  • Typical Populations
  • Methods
  • Tests/Measures
  • Factors Relevant to Test Interpretation
  • Forensic Applications
  • Neuropsychological Rehabilitation
  • Training Programs
  • Organizations

Psychology Clinical Neuropsychology
Bruce Caplan
  • LAST REVIEWED: 26 August 2022
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 November 2011
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199828340-0040


Clinical neuropsychology is the psychological specialty that seeks to elucidate brain-behavior relations through the study of the neurobehavioral consequences of various forms of brain damage or dysfunction in humans. Historically, clinical neuropsychologists were concerned primarily with assessment and diagnosis of brain dysfunction (especially localization of lesions), but recent conceptualizations emphasize evaluation of individuals’ “neuropsychological topography” (i.e., establishing their cognitive strengths and weaknesses) and also encompass rehabilitation of neuropsychological deficits. The assessment aim of clinical neuropsychology is achieved through administration of tests of such cognitive functions as attention, language, perception, memory, and executive abilities, as well as measures of personality and emotional state. These strategies are increasingly applied to medical conditions (e.g., heart failure, diabetes, liver disease) primarily affecting body systems not commonly thought of as “neurological” but which may have consequences for the functional integrity of the brain. Clinical neuropsychological assessment has also come to play an important role in forensic proceedings, especially in personal injury cases where there may be traumatic brain injury–related cognitive decline or those where various forms of competence are at issue. Other contemporary developments involve the use of neuropsychological tests to predict daily life activities (e.g., money management, driving, return to work) and to help shape multidisciplinary rehabilitation programs. This article begins with a brief review of the history of clinical neuropsychology. A section on relevant neuroanatomy addresses the various brain bases of the behavioral phenomena of interest. The growing roster of medical and psychiatric conditions studied with clinical neuropsychological methods is noted and the methods themselves are reviewed, as are the several factors—other than brain functioning—that can influence performance on neuropsychological tests. Recent developments in forensic contributions of neuropsychology and the remediation of cognitive deficits are discussed. The work also provides lists of the major texts and professional journals as well as information about pertinent professional organizations and issues in education and training.


Clinical neuropsychology is the branch of psychology concerned with assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of individuals with known or suspected brain damage or dysfunction (Vandenbos 2007, Stringer 2011). Clinical neuropsychology should be distinguished from experimental neuropsychology, which endeavors to enhance our understanding of brain-behavior relations through controlled experiments involving (1) studies of animals with induced brain lesions and (2) investigations of normal brain function using methods such as dichotic listening and tachistoscopic presentation. Clinical neuropsychology shares some principles and practices with other psychology specialties such as rehabilitation psychology (e.g., both are concerned with assessment and remediation/management of cognitive deficits) and health psychology (both address psychological effects of certain chronic illnesses and their impact on caregivers).

  • Stringer, Anthony Y. 2011. Clinical neuropsychology. In Encyclopedia of clinical neuropsychology. Vol. 1. Edited by Jeffrey Kreutzer, John DeLuca, and Bruce Caplan, 591–594. New York: Springer.

    DOI: 10.1007/978-0-387-79948-3

    A concise overview of the nature and history of the field.

  • Vandenbos, Gary R., ed. 2007. APA dictionary of psychology. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

    Exhaustive (some twenty-five thousand entries covering ninety subareas of the field) alphabetical catalogue of the language of psychology.

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