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It's not always easy to determine the differences between professionals in the medical and mental health fields. Neurology and neuropsychology are closely related, and there is often a great deal of overlap between these two fields. But while it might seem like neurologists and neuropsychologists perform similar functions, there are also some significant differences in their education, training and functions.
What Neurologists Do
Neurologists are specialists who assess, diagnose and treat disorders of the nervous system. They help patients who have experienced injuries or trauma to the central nervous system. For example, they might work with patients who have Parkinson's disease or dementia. Or they might help people who have brain damage due to car accidents or other types of trauma. They also work with patients who have problems that might not be caused by injury or trauma, such as chronic headaches or sleep problems. 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.
Qualifications of a Neurologist
Since they are medical doctors, neurologists must complete four years of medical school. They can either earn an MD, or doctor of medicine, or a DO, or doctor of osteopathy. After they have completed their medical degrees, they apply for state licensure to practice medicine. Once they obtain licensure, they undergo a required internship in general or internal medicine. After their internships, they begin specialized training in neurology. Aspiring neurologists must complete a three-year residency in neurology units in settings like hospitals or medical centers, where they learn more about the structure and function of the brain and nervous system, different neurological diseases, and various types of treatments.
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. Such problems might include dementia, seizure disorders, Parkinson's disease or traumatic brain injury. Unlike neurologists, who provide treatment for the physical symptoms and causes of brain disorders, neuropsychologists treat the cognitive, mental and behavioral effects of brain disorders. 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. 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. Board certification isn't necessary, but it can provide additional professional credibility.
- University of Rochester: Highland Hospital: Neurology: What is a Neurologist?
- Healthline.com: Neurologist
- American Psychological Association: Public Description of Clinical Neuropsychology
- UNC School of Medicine: Department of Neurology: Neuropsychological Evaluation FAQ
- American Board of Professional Psychology: Clinical Neuropsychology
Ashley Miller is a licensed social worker, psychotherapist, certified Reiki practitioner, yoga enthusiast and aromatherapist. She has also worked as an employee assistance program counselor and a substance-abuse professional. Miller holds a Master of Social Work and has extensive training in mental health diagnosis, as well as child and adolescent psychotherapy. She also has a bachelor's degree in music.