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What is Neuropsychology?

At the crossroads of neurology and psychology, neuropsychology draws on knowledge from various disciplines, including neuroscience, anatomy, physiology, and psychology, to understand how different parts of the brain are responsible for different functions, such as sensation, perception, movement, learning, attention, memory, language, and emotion. In other words, it is a science that studies the relationship between the brain and human behavior. It is interested in both the normal and abnormal functioning of the brain.

 

Neuropsychology researchers examine, for example, the role of different brain structures in the acquisition of new knowledge or in the recognition of objects in the environment. Others study how developmental (e.g., dyslexia, attention deficit disorder), acquired (e.g., stroke, head injury) or degenerative (e.g., Alzheimer's disease) neurological disorders affect a person's cognition, behavior, personality and emotions.

 

Neuropsychologists, depending of their work environment, use a variety of methods to study the brain, including brain imaging techniques, behavioral assessments, and neuropsychological tests in order to determine the extent of their cognitive impairments and the areas of the brain that are affected or preserved.

Neurodevelopmental Disorders

Neurological Disorders

Neurodegenerative Diseases

Intellectual Disability

Intellectual disability (ID) is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by significant limitations in cognitive functioning and adaptive behaviors that affect various aspects of daily life. These limitations can include difficulties in learning, problem solving, communication, and performing daily life skills like personal care and household tasks.

 

The severity of intellectual disability can range from mild to severe and can be caused by various factors such as genetic disorders, chromosomal abnormalities, prenatal exposure to toxins such as alcohol or drugs, and injury to the brain during birth or later in life.

Diagnosis of intellectual disability typically involves a comprehensive evaluation by the neuropsychologist. The evaluation process considers a person's cognitive and adaptive functioning and their history, including medical, developmental, and family history.

Giftedness

Giftedness refers to an exceptional natural ability or talent in a particular area, such as academics, arts, music, or sports. Gifted individuals are capable of performing at levels significantly beyond what is expected for their age or peer group.

 

The exact definition of giftedness can vary, but it is generally understood to involve both high levels of ability and a drive to achieve in a specific domain. A person who is gifted in a particular area may possess advanced reasoning, problem-solving, and critical-thinking skills, as well as heightened creativity, intuition, and imaginative ability.

 

It is important to note that giftedness is not just about having high IQ or exceptional test scores. While these factors may be associated with giftedness, they do not fully capture the complexity of this phenomenon. In many cases, gifted individuals have unique needs and challenges that require a tailored educational and social support system to help them reach their full potential.

 

Note that, unlike other neurodevelopmental disorders, giftedness is not considered a disorder. It is therefore not a diagnosis, but an intellectual potential that is revealed by the evaluation.

The neuropsychologist will often begin with an intelligence quotient (IQ) assessment, as this is necessary. Most of the time, the IQ will be assessed using a standardized intelligence test. In addition to the intellectual assessment, interviews with the parents and teacher are necessary. 

 

In conclusion, it seems important to remember that a gifted child is first and foremost a child... a little being who seeks to understand the world around him and to take his place with a particular way of feeling and thinking. The evaluation and recommendations of the neuropsychologist will go beyond the measurement of the IQ, and will be unique and adapted to the reality of the child who comes to us.

Dyslexia 

Dyslexia is a learning disability that affects an individual's ability to read, spell, and write accurately and fluently. It is a neurodevelopmental condition that impacts how the brain processes written and spoken language. People with dyslexia often struggle with recognizing and decoding words, which can make reading and writing a slow and frustrating process.

 

Dyslexia is not caused by a lack of intelligence or laziness. Rather, it is believed to be a result of differences in the way the brain processes and interprets information. The exact causes of dyslexia are not well understood, but research suggests that it may be related to differences in brain structure or function, genetic factors, or a combination of both.

It is important to note that dyslexia does not affect an individual's general intelligence, and many people with dyslexia have strengths in other areas such as creativity, problem solving, and spatial reasoning. With appropriate support and accommodations, individuals with dyslexia can learn to read and write effectively.

When the pathways to reading are affected, this also has an impact on writing. This is why many professionals refer to it as dyslexia-dysorthography.

 

The neuropsychological evaluation allows us to draw a complete cognitive profile of the child's abilities, i.e., it allows us to target both intellectual strengths and weaknesses. The analysis of the results obtained then allows us to determine whether the child suffers from a specific learning disorder such as dyslexia-dysorthographia, or whether he or she has learning difficulties related to another condition such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or emotional difficulties.

 

Dyscalculia

Dyscalculia is a learning disability that affects a person's ability to understand and perform mathematical operations. It is thought to be related to difficulties with processing numerical information and performing basic arithmetic tasks, such as addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.

People with dyscalculia may also struggle with concepts like counting, estimating quantities, telling time, and understanding money. They may have trouble with reading, writing, and interpreting mathematical symbols, and they may struggle to solve word problems or perform other mathematical reasoning tasks.

The cause of dyscalculia is not fully understood, but researchers and clinicians agree that dyscalculia is a neurodevelopmental disorder, e.g. of biological origin. This means that it is the result of a dysfunction in certain areas of the brain. The latest studies point to the parietal cortex as the "seat" of number awareness. It may be associated with differences in brain structure or function, particularly in areas involved in numerical processing and mathematical reasoning.

 

Dysgraphia

Dysgraphia is a learning disability that affects a person's ability to write legibly and coherently. It is a neurological condition that can impact the motor, memory, and processing skills required for writing. Dysgraphia can make writing a slow and laborious process and can lead to difficulties with spelling, grammar, punctuation, and sentence structure.

People with dysgraphia may also experience difficulty with other fine motor skills, such as tying shoes or buttoning a shirt, and may struggle with tasks that require them to coordinate their hand and eye movements. The condition can affect both children and adults, and it can range from mild to severe.

Dyspraxia

Dyspraxia, also known as developmental coordination disorder (DCD), is a neurological condition that affects a person's ability to plan and coordinate physical movements.

Individuals with dyspraxia often have difficulty with motor skills such as tying shoes, using utensils, handwriting, and participating in sports. They may also have trouble with balance, spatial awareness, and fine and gross motor skills.

Dyspraxia can also impact other areas such as speech, language, and perception. Individuals with dyspraxia may have trouble with organizing thoughts, following instructions, and processing information. They may also experience anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem as a result of their difficulties.

The exact causes of dyspraxia are not fully understood, but it is believed to be related to differences in brain development or function. There is no cure for dyspraxia, but with the right support and therapy, individuals with dyspraxia can learn strategies to improve their motor skills, communication, and overall functioning.

ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects both children and adults. It is characterized by a persistent pattern of inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity that interferes with normal functioning and development.

Individuals with ADHD may experience difficulty paying attention, staying focused, and completing tasks. They may also struggle with impulsivity, which can lead to poor decision-making and risky behaviors. Hyperactivity is also a common symptom, which can manifest as restlessness, fidgeting, and difficulty sitting still.

 

ADHD is a complex disorder that likely has a genetic component, although environmental factors may also play a role. It is typically diagnosed through a comprehensive evaluation that includes a clinical interview, behavioral observations, and assessments of cognitive function.

 

There are a variety of treatment options available for individuals with ADHD, including medication, behavioral therapy, and lifestyle changes. With the right support and management strategies, individuals with ADHD can learn to manage their symptoms and achieve their full potential.

Stroke

Cerebrovascular accident, commonly known as a stroke, occurs when there is a

disruption in the blood flow to the brain. This can be due to a blockage of an artery in

the brain (ischemic stroke), or bleeding in the brain (hemorrhagic stroke).

 

Stroke frequently leads to cognitive deficits of varying severity depending on the region

of the brain affected and the region served by the blood vessel involved. In this sense,

more serious sequelae are expected following a bilateral stroke (right AND left). The

neuropsychologist's knowledge of brain anatomy and the functions associated with its

various regions, as well as specialized assessment tools, make him or her an expert in

measuring the cognitive impact of a stroke.

 

Moreover, various psychological manifestations can occur following a stroke such as

depression or anxiety. Whether it is directly related to the brain damage or because of

the psychological consequences of the after-effects on the person's functioning, the

stroke can have effects on mood that are sometimes sufficient to reach the criteria for

depression. Emotional lability and fatigue may also be part of the manifestations.

Traumatic Brain Injury

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) occurs when an external force injures the brain. This injury can lead to temporary or permanent damage that affects how the brain functions. TBI can result from a variety of situations including falls, sports injuries (concussion), motor vehicle accidents, or physical assaults.

 

The severity of TBI can range from mild to severe. Mild TBI can result in a brief change in mental status, while severe TBI can lead to coma, long-term disability, or death. Symptoms of TBI may include headaches, confusion, dizziness, fatigue, memory loss, and difficulty concentrating or sleeping.

 

Treatment for TBI can vary depending on the severity of the injury. Mild cases may require only rest and monitoring, while severe cases may require surgery, rehabilitation, or ongoing care. Early diagnosis and treatment are crucial to improving outcomes and minimizing long-term effects.

Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic autoimmune disease of the central nervous system (CNS) that affects the brain, spinal cord, and optic nerves. MS occurs when the body's immune system attacks and damages the myelin sheath, a protective covering that surrounds nerve fibers in the CNS, disrupting the normal flow of nerve impulses.

As a result, MS can cause a variety of symptoms, including weakness, numbness, tingling, vision problems, balance and coordination problems, fatigue, cognitive impairment, and even paralysis.

The cause of MS is not fully understood, but it is believed to be a combination of genetic and environmental factors that trigger an abnormal immune response. There is no cure for MS, but treatments can help manage symptoms and slow the progression of the disease. These treatments may include medications to reduce inflammation, physical therapy to improve mobility and strength, and lifestyle modifications such as exercise and stress management.

When cognitive difficulties are found to be serious and/or appear to have an impact on functioning, a neuropsychologist can conduct a more detailed evaluation. As a result of this analysis, the neuropsychologist obtains a comprehensive profile of the cognitive functions that are affected in his client, but also of the aspects that are better preserved. The neuropsychologist can then often make a statement about the causes involved in this particular person. Following the evaluation, the neuropsychologist can follow up with the client to help him/her implement the recommended strategies. Medication may sometimes be considered, especially when it is shown that the difficulties are mainly related to a lack of attention and/or fatigue.

Neurodegenerative Diseases

Major neurocognitive disorder, also known as dementia, is a condition characterized by significant cognitive decline that interferes with a person's daily functioning. The decline typically affects memory, communication, reasoning, and other mental processes. It is often a progressive condition that worsens over time. As the condition progresses, individuals with dementia may have difficulty with basic activities of daily living, such as dressing, eating, and bathing.

There are several types of dementia, with Alzheimer's disease being the most common form. Other types include vascular dementia, Lewy body dementia, frontotemporal dementia, and others. Each type of dementia can have unique symptoms and causes.

 

Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is a condition that involves a decline in cognitive abilities, such as memory, attention, and reasoning, that is greater than expected for a person's age and education level, but not severe enough to interfere significantly with daily life. MCI is sometimes considered an intermediate stage between normal aging and dementia, although not all individuals with MCI will develop dementia such as Alzheimer.

MCI may be caused by a variety of factors, such as genetics, lifestyle factors (e.g. diet, exercise, sleep), and underlying medical conditions (e.g. thyroid disorders, depression). It is important to note that not everyone with MCI will progress to dementia, and some individuals may even experience improvements in cognitive function over time. However, individuals with MCI are at a higher risk for developing dementia than those without MCI. Therefore, it is important to monitor and manage any cognitive changes in order to promote overall brain health and reduce the risk of cognitive decline.

While there is currently no cure for dementia, early diagnosis and management of symptoms can help improve quality of life for individuals with the condition and their caregivers. An in-depth evaluation of cognitive functioning makes it possible to objectivize cognitive complaints and establish the evolution of the functioning over time.

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