Neuropsychology: Cognition, emotion and behaviour as functions of the brain.
Clinical neuropsychology is a specialty discipline within psychology which is focused on the associations between the brain and neuropsychological functions, including cognition, emotion and behaviour. Clinical neuropsychology is particularly interested in the effects of brain disorders and other clinical conditions affecting the brain on these functions.
Disorders and conditions comprise acquired or congenital neurological and neuropsychiatric conditions in children, adolescents and adults, such as ADHD, autism, stroke, brain tumor, traumatic brain injury, epilepsy, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, drug abuse, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression, etc.
Clinical neuropsychologists can be involved in both the assessment and treatment of people with brain disorders in various applied and often clinical settings, but also in patient-related research. Methods used in the field of clinical neuropsychology are neuropsychological tests, neuroimaging, and electrophysiological techniques.
With the ageing population, the number of people with neuropsychological disorders increases and with this also the demand for well trained clinical neuropsychologists.
alumnus Sandra Rakers - lecturer UG / Neuropsychologist UMCG
During my Bachelor's degree in Biomedical Sciences/Behavioural and Neurological Sciences, I found the brain particularly interesting. After my Bachelor's phase I wondered which direction to head in, but when I heard of the Master's in Clinical Neuropsychology, the choice was easy. In neuropsychology you examine the relationship between the brain and behaviour in day-to-day functioning.
I thought it would be great to learn more about this and eventually, as a neuropsychologist, to contribute to improving quality of life for patients with cerebral conditions. So then I first took the pre-Master’s and then moved on to the Master’s in Clinical Neuropsychology.
The programme comprises course units, a placement and a Master’s thesis. You can choose from different course units. I found the course unit in Neuropsychological Rehabilitation particularly fun and interesting as it also included patient presentations. I also followed an integrated placement at the UMCG, whereby the clinical part of the placement was combined with writing my Master’s thesis. I conducted diagnostic activities during the placement and was involved in several research projects with different patient groups (traumatic head injuries, spinocerebellar ataxia, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s diseases). I really enjoyed the great variety in the placement. One day I’d be seeing a patient, and the next I was reading articles and writing.
After the Master’s phase I had the chance to work as a researcher at the Department of Neuropsychology at the UMCG. I was busy administering neurological tests and writing articles. I then got a job as a lecturer at the UG. My main task now is supervising Master’s thesis projects at the UMCG. I also occasionally work as a neuropsychologist and see patients. I’m also researching traumatic head injuries. In Clinical Neuropsychology clinical work and research can easily be combined. The clinical work gives rise to interesting questions, and we then learn more about them through research, thus improving care for patients. I find my work very rewarding and challenging, and I hope I can continue to do it for years to come.
Myrthe Scheenen - Neuropsychologist at Maarsingh & Van Steijn
In my second year, I participated in the Honours Programme and was partnered with a researcher at the UMCG. I was immediately inspired by her research and by neuropsychology in general, and decided to write my Bachelor's thesis about the subject. It seemed like an obvious choice to continue in that field by pursuing a Master's in Clinical Neuropsychology.
After the Master's in Clinical Neuropsychology I conducted PhD research at the neuropsychology department at the UMCG. My supervisor helped me to establish contact with the director of the new Maarsingh & Van Steijn facility in Groningen, and I was invited for an interview.
I work here now as a neuropsychologist. That means that I provide primary mental healthcare for patients suffering from various psychological problems, including depression and phobias. I also provide support to people suffering from neurodegenerative diseases or those recovering from neurological injury. If necessary, I carry out neuropsychological research. In addition, I conduct psychiatric expertise consultations for a firm called WPEX.
My current position mainly involves treating people who are not suffering from neurological problems, so my work is more closely related to the Master´s in Clinical Psychology. However, I think that being familiar with both directions makes me a better psychologist in both fields. Patients with neurological problems are also often somber or phobic, and sometimes have personality problems.
Once I had my Master's, I wasn't done studying, and as I really missed Groningen a lot I decided to return.
My name is Shannen Will, I am originally from Germany and I am a Master's student of Clinical Neuropsychology. I chose this Master's because I wanted to deepen my understanding of psychological and psychiatric disorders in conjunction with the working of the brain.
I have a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Groningen and Master’s in Clinical Psychology from Leiden. Once I had my Master’s, I wasn’t done studying, and as I really missed Groningen a lot I decided to return.
At the moment I am following the course unit in Neuropsychological Assessment in which we learn how to test and diagnose people with brain disorders. The course unit is quite practical. As well as attending the lectures we have to work on video assignments. Another course unit that I really like is Neuropsychology and Psychiatric Disorders. I am really intrigued to find out more about how all disorders, such as ADHD or eating disorders, are related to the brain.
What I love about studying here is the fact that you can take electives alongside the compulsory curriculum. Since I have broad interests, I also registered for the course unit Health Psychology from the Applied Social Psychology Master’s track. I enjoy studying this topic as well because it focuses on health in general and therefore provides a complementary perspective.
I am happy that the Dutch government supports me financially. As an EU national, I could apply for the tuition fee loan which makes studying more affordable.
Groningen is great. It is a very international city. People here are happy, friendly and accepting. Many good things have happened to me here! Groningen gave me the chance to prove I could become a psychologist.
Shannen Will, masterstudent Clinical Neuropsychology
Joost Heutink - Assistant professor
My name is Joost Heutink and I am an Assistant Professor for the Bachelor's degree in Psychology and the Master's degree in Clinical Neuropsychology. Students encounter me for the first time in their second year, for the Introduction to clinical neuropsychology course unit. During the Bachelor's phase, neuropsychology only plays a minor role, but it is an extremely interesting field! I really want to make students enthusiastic about following the related Master's degree.
Within the field of neuropsychology, we investigate the relationship between the brain and behaviour. People with a hereditary or acquired cerebral condition can have problems with perception, language, memory, motor functions, attention span, planning and behaviour. These disorders teach us a lot about how the brain works. We can use this knowledge to help patients cope with their functional impairment as well as possible and to participate in society. That’s what I find so great about my work – the link between academic research and clinical practice, where the patient takes centre stage.
Patients also play an important role in my lectures. I present many case studies, and I invite people with a cerebral condition to tell my students about the problems they experience. The scientific theories I deal with in my course unit help students to understand the problems these people have. At the same time, the patients help us to constantly test our theories and put them in context. Students learn to examine the theories with a critical eye, making them concrete. You see immediate results in actual practice!
Neuropsychology is also very interesting because it’s constantly developing. New things are constantly being discovered about the brain. Research helps us to understand the brain more and better, which knowledge we can then benefit from!