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1-1 Discussion: History and Development of Cognitive Neuropsychology

The field of cognitive neuroscience includes a wide array of disciplines and professions, such as the research neuroscientist who focuses on non-human primate translational work or the clinical neuropsychologist who conducts assessment with patients at a medical center. How do you see cognitive neuroscience benefiting the field of psychology, the patients who seek mental health services, and society at large? How do you think cognitive neuroscience could affect primary and secondary education of children and adolescents? What historical developments in neuroscience have had the greatest effect on the larger field of psychology? Provide examples to support your thinking. When responding to your peers, compare your views of neuroscience and its effects.

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I have always been fascinated with neuroscience. I worked as a research study coordinator in psychiatry and worked primarily with bipolar patients. We used numerous diagnostic tools, such as interviews and questionnaires but it always floored me that we did not have something simple like a blood test or brain scan that could diagnose people with bipolar. It was actually frustrating to me because using the diagnostic tools of interviewing and the questionnaire seemed so subjective to me. I hope someday we can use a PET scan or some sort of brain imaging to diagnose people with mental disorders.

Mental disorders such as depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorders are formed in the brain. Much of the evidence for the role of specific brain areas in psychiatry comes from “brain imaging,” which involves various ways of looking at the brain. Some technologies like PET imaging and functional MRI can determine the activity of the brain either at rest or while a person does specific tasks. Other technologies, like the long-established MRI, assess the brain’s structure, size and shape (Gillman, 2016).

Even though scientists have gained a lot of knowledge about the brain through imaging it is unfortunate that mental illness cannot be diagnosed by examining an individual’s brain. There are numerous reasons why this is the case:

  1. Variation in brain activity among people with the same diagnosis
  2. Psychiatric conditions can look different in different individuals
  3. Different psychiatric conditions can share similar symptoms
  4. Similar brain areas are involved in different psychiatric conditions

As of now, brain imaging cannot be used for psychiatric diagnosis but imaging is still useful. It can be valuable in understanding the areas involved in a psychiatric condition, allowing innovative ideas such as deep brain stimulation and transcranial magnetic stimulation for the treatment of depression. Brain imaging can also rule out a direct physical cause (like a tumor or a brain bleed) of psychiatric symptoms (Gillman, 2016)( Habibi & Curran, 2012).

Education is about improving learning, and neuroscience is about understanding the mental processes involved in learning. Neuroscience research suggests that learning outcomes are not solely determined by the environment (Woollett et al., 2009). Biological factors play an important role in accounting for differences in learning ability between individuals. By studying biological factors, research has advanced the understanding of specific learning difficulties such as dyslexia and dyscalculia. Likewise, neuroscience is discovering why certain types of learning are more rewarding than others (Woollett et al., 2009).

• The brain changes constantly as a result of learning and remains ‘plastic’ throughout life. Neuroscience has shown that learning a skill changes the brain and that these changes regress when practice of the skill ceases. This is why ‘use it or lose it’ is an important principle for lifelong learning.

• Resilience, our adaptive response to stress and adversity, can be built up through education with lifelong effects into old age.

• Some insights from neuroscience are important for the development and use of adaptive digital technologies. These technologies have the potential to create more learning opportunities inside and outside the classroom and throughout life. These technologies could also have an effect on wellbeing, health, employment and the economy.

• The budding field of educational neuroscience presents opportunities as well as challenges for education. It provides ways to develop a common language and bridge the gap between educators, psychologists, and neuroscientists (Woollett et al., 2009).


Gillman, S. (2016). Using brain scans to diagnose mental disorders. Psychology Today. Retrieved from

Habibi, M. & Curran, S. (2012) Neuroimaging and depression. GM Journal. Retrieved from

Woollett, K., Spiers, H. & Maguire, E. (2009). Talent in the taxi: a model system for

exploring expertise. Phil Trans R Soc B 364(1522), 1407–1416.)


PSY 634 Module 1-1 Discussion: History and Development of Cognitive Neuropsychology

Tenisha M Simms

January 21, 2020

Cognitive neuroscience is the scientific field that studies the biological processes of cognition with a specific focus on the neural connections within the brain that are involved in mental processes (Kosslyn & Andersen R., 1992). These processes include how people think, speak, learn, perceive, and recall information. Cognitive neuroscience is a branch of both psychology and neuroscience with overlapping disciplines in affective neuroscience, behavioral neuroscience, cognitive psychology, and physiological psychology (Kosslyn & Andersen R., 1992). Neuropsychology investigates the relationship between basic neurophysiological processes and mental functions or behaviors, i.e. language, memory, and perception (JoVe, 2020). It helps scientists understand how human thought works and provides insight into disorders relating to the nervous system (JoVe, 2020). Neuroscience affects almost all human functions and can help understand neurological conditions such as Down Syndrome, attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Epilepsy, and addiction.

The study of the human brain can be traced back to the ancient Greeks who were among the first people to study the human brain. The Greek philosopher, Aristotle theorized that the brain was a blood-cooling mechanism, however Pierre Paul Broca, a French anatomist, physician, and surgeon who worked with brain damaged patients found that different areas of the brain were involved in specific functions (Crivellato & Ribatti, 2007). In the 19th century, von Hemholtz, a German physician and physicist measured the speed of the electrical impulses produced by nerve cells and Golgi, an Italian pathologist, physician, and scientist used silver chromate salt to see what neurons looked like (JoVe, 2020). In the 20th century more research uncovered the importance of the brain and its functions. These developments have allowed scientists and physicians the ability to diagnose and treat several conditions and shed light on the complexities of the human brain.

Neuroscience benefits psychology by highlighting the origin of behavior within certain areas of the mind. For example, the area of the brain responsible for speech and a few other functions is known as Broca’s area, named after Dr. Pierre Paul Broca. Damage in this area of the brain can cause Broca’s aphasia, a condition in which a person can no longer produce coherent or accurate speech (Kosslyn & Andersen R., 1992). When looking at education, cognitive neuroscience has been instrumental in using its understanding of cognitive functioning to aid children in their learning processes, especially those with learning disabilities. Cognitive assessment tools that focus on evaluating networks of core neurocognitive deficits have the potential to lead to more precise diagnosis and provide the basis for designing specific intervention programs tailored to the deficits exhibited by the child (Rubinsten, 2015).

The identification of the various areas of the brain and how these areas are specific for different functions would be considered one of the greatest effects on psychology. It has allowed neuroscience research to expand from looking at the brain area(s) specific functions with the usage of single technology to studies exploring the interactions between different brain areas, using multiple technologies and approaches to understand brain functions. Advances in non-invasive functional neuroimaging and data analysis methods have allowed for the use of highly naturalistic stimuli and tasks such as feature films depicting social interactions in cognitive neuroscience studies (Hasson, Nir, Levy, Fuhrmann, & Malach, 2004).


Crivellato, E., & Ribatti, D. (2007). Soul, mind, brain: Greek philosophy and the birth of neuroscience. Brain Research Bulletin, 327-336.

Hasson, U., Nir, Y., Levy, I., Fuhrmann, G., & Malach, R. (2004). Intersubject Synchronization of Cortical Activity During Natural Vision. Science, 1634-1640.

JoVe. (2020). Neuroscience. An Introduction to Neurophysiology. Retrieved from JoVE Science Education Database:…

Kosslyn, S. M., & Andersen R., A. (1992). Frontiers in cognitive neuroscience. Cambridge: MIT Press.

Rubinsten, O. (2015). Link between cognitive neuroscience and education: the case of clinical assessment of developmental dyscalculia. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience.

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