Neurology Vs. Neuropsychology: One of these is not like the other…
Neurologists and Neuropsychologists often get mistaken as one and the same. Although there are some similarities, the differences are quite stark, and often allows for the necessity of both fields in many cases of neurologic injury.
What Neurologists Do
In general, Neurologists are MDs who assess, diagnose and treat disorders of the nervous system. They usually help with chronic headaches, migraines, sleep issues or other neurologic diagnoses like epilepsy, or MS. Or they might help people who have brain damage due to car accidents or other types of trauma. Neurologists use a variety of tools to perform their jobs, such as MRIs, observation and examination to measure factors like a patient's reflexes, senses and brain function. Neurologists are usually focused on medication treatments for these conditions.
What Neuropsychologists Do
Neuropsychology involves assessing and treating a wide range of neurobehavioral problems of the central nervous system, according to the American Psychological Association.They are primarily interested in the relationship between the brain and behaviors.
Unlike neurologists, who provide primarily medication treatment for the physical symptoms and causes of brain disorders, neuropsychologists treat the cognitive, mental and behavioral effects of brain disorders without the use of medications. They perform neuropsychological evaluations and psychological tests as well as offer specific interventions based on the patient's concerns and problems.
Qualifications of a Neuropsychologist
Neuropsychologists have doctoral degrees in psychology and hold state licensure to practice. Earning a doctoral degree in psychology usually takes four to seven years. Their education doesn't end once they earn their degrees, however. Aspiring neuropsychologists also complete post-doctoral training in neuropsychology.
Post-doctoral training usually occurs in medical centers or neurological institutes, and has a minimum requirement of 2 years. To become board certified, neuropsychologists must have at least two years of supervised training in clinical neuropsychology and pass a certification examination, according to the American Board of Professional Psychology.
Which discipline is better for treating Concussions?
Concussions can be quite complicated, involving a constellation of symptoms including sleep issues, physical problems, cognitive difficulties, as well as psychological disorders. Due to the nature of this injury in particular, it can be argued that Neuropsychology is the best specialty equipped to deal with the host of symptoms involved in this injury.
Although Neurologists may be qualified, the combination of these symptoms in this particular group of patients is better suited for a specialty that more fully understands the physiologic/psychologic component that underlies this injury. Additionally, the use of medications that are often prescribed by Neurologists more often than not exacerbate the patient’s existing symptoms. If you want a treatment for your conditions that does not include medications, a Neuropsychologist may be better suited for you. Your concussion treatmentshould also be specific and targeted to your specific symptoms and areas you want to improve upon.
With that being said, as in any discipline, not all Neuropsychologists are created equally. Finding a specialist that is experienced in functional MRI and is connected to a multi-disciplinary treatments team is essential.
Alina K. Fong received her PhD in Clinical Neuropsychology with an emphasis in neuroradiology from Brigham Young University. She received the national American Psychological Association Clinical Neuropsychology Division 40 Graduate Student Research Award in 2004 for her research on "Cortical Sources of the N400 and 'The N400 Effect." Dr. Fong's interest in brain mapping soon turned to functional MRI, and since then, her research efforts have been focused on the clinical applications of fMRI.