What is neuropsychology ?

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Neuropsychology is the science about the brain and the relation between emotions, cognitive functions, behavior and all the disorders in this complex system. 

Essentially, I think that neuropsychology is or should be at the core of our understanding of psychopathology, or all the emotional (or stress) disorders. Emotional disorders all have their origin in a dysfunction of the brain. So neuropsychological knowledge is essential to understand emotional disorders. Luckily, neuroscience is booming since the late 1970s and especially since the 90s. 

Historically however, psychopathology or the study of emotional disorders, relied a lot on speculation, philosophy and the egos of clinicians and pseudo-scientists. Unfortunately, that was inevitable because the knowledge about the brain at that time was very limited. 

I really think that the study of psychological or emotional disorders (as I prefer to call it), very unfortunately started with complete pseudo-scientific ideas from the likes of Charcot, Freud, Jung, Adler. Especially Freud, one of the greatest pseudo-scientists ever, has influenced the thinking about emotional disorders very negatively, even up till this day. So this kind of pseudo-scientific thinking still is prevalent in a lot of studies about emotional disorders today. Concepts like 'repression', the 'unconscious mind', 'defensive mechanisms', are still used a lot without much critical thinking. The underlying neuroscientific explanation of such concepts is mostly lacking or insufficient. Old pseudo-scientific ideas, from a very disputable clinician (Freud). To get an idea about how incompetent he was as both a clinician and scientist, just read Richard Webster's magnificent book "Why Freud was wrong". Strangely enough, a book that is quite difficult to find in bookshops, compared to all the books of Freud.

Fortunately, several cognitive and neuro-scientists like the late Jaak Panksepp, Antonio Damasio, Todd Braver, Michael Gazzaniga, Vilayanur Ramachandran, Mark Solms, have made more interesting neuroscientific discoveries in recent years that are revealing more secrets of the human brain. My favorite is Jaak Panksepp and Antonio Damasio, because in my opinion they are not far from actually having theories that can explain quite a few phenomena, both in studies as well as in clinical cases. Please see several books of them all in the Recommended Books column.

Neuropsychology: the normal and the abnormal brain

On my website here I will try to explain normal brain functions like your perception, memory, attention, executive functions, and emotional system. I hope to give you several info-graphs and especially examples out of normal daily life to explain the normal brain functions. 

A second and larger part of this website will be about abnormal brain functioning. This will be both about brain damage due to an observable hardware failure like a stroke, traumatic brain injury, anoxia, infections or other toxic events, and about brain disfunctions that clearly lie in the brain's 'software'.

Usually, this part of emotional disorders, or psychopathology, is not clearly related to observable brain system disfunctioning. Meaning: it can not be seen by an fMRI, PET-scan or other neurological techniques. Examples are delusions, very extreme ideas about reality that most people would consider 'loony', sub- or even clearly psychotic ideas. 

I would like to explain what 'crazy' means and that it is a spectrum: a little out of reach with reality (some would not call that 'crazy'), or on the other end of the spectrum: the clearly psychotic patient who sees snakes, green chickens that obviously are not real.


Neuropsychology is in my opinion key to the understanding of brain functioning and therefore to understanding both emotions and behavior. 

The distinctions in brain functioning can be seen as:

  1. Normal brain functioning: both hardware and software of the brain are intact
  2. Abnormal brain functioning:
  • Due to hardware problems like many neurological diseases (e.g. stroke, traumatic brain injury, anoxia, brain cancer)
  • Due to software problems like in emotional and behavioral disorders (e.g. delusions, obsessions, severe depression or anxiety disorders)

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I will not take any responsibility for how the information on this website will affect you. It always remains your responsibility to handle all information with care and in case of medical or mental problems you should ALWAYS consult a professional in your neighbourhood!

Ik neem geen enkele verantwoordelijkheid voor hoe de informatie op deze site u zal beïnvloeden. Het blijft altijd uw verantwoordelijkheid om al deze informatie zorgvuldig te bekijken. In het geval van lichamelijke en/of mentale problemen dient u ALTIJD een professional in uw directe omgeving te waarschuwen!