Cognitive Neuropsychologist

Study how a person's functions is affected by brain damage.

What does a Cognitive Neuropsychologist do?

The human brain is like a cluster of towns connected by a network of roads and bridges: When a disaster occurs, the roads get damaged, making it difficult to get supplies from one town to the next. In the case of brains, those “supplies” are information, and it’s the aim of a Cognitive Neuropsychologist to determine why they can’t be delivered.

If you’re a Cognitive Neuropsychologist, that makes you a sort of Geographer of the brain, as it’s your job to understand its structure, and to research the effects of damaged pathways on cognitive functions, such as language, perception, attention, thinking, memory, motor skills, problem solving, and object recognition.

Instead of treating patients, you study them, which means you often have more in common with a Scientist than with a traditional Psychologist: Like the former, you’re paid to hypothesize, experiment, and conclude.

Unlike Cognitive Psychologists, who study how normal brains acquire, store, and retrieve information, it’s your job as a Cognitive Neuropsychologist to study abnormal brains, which have been impaired due to brain injury or neurological illness. Like a brain Cartographer, therefore, you spend your days observing people who have neurological deficits, and then “mapping” their brains with the help of neuroimaging tools, trying to figure out the location of informational roadblocks, as well as their impact.

Think of it this way: By studying what a person can’t do, then figuring out where their brain is damaged, you can establish what “roads” lead to where, which in turn tells you how the brain is built and how it can be repaired when it’s broken.