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The clinical neuropsychologist's dilemma


Academic neuropsychologists are increasingly engaged in (and are part of) cognitive neuroscience. Neuroimaging is currently high on the agenda, neuroplasticity is a very topical field within neuroscience, and a number of neuropsychologists work on animal models of brain injury. Clinical neuropsychologists, particularly those involved in rehabilitation, will usually tell you that their work needs to be guided by theory or else they risk the accusation of being simply pragmatic. The fundamental question for clinical neuropsychologists is which theory or theories are most relevant and useful for the patients and families with whom they work? While it would seem that most clinical neuropsychologists consider cognitive neuroscience to be of direct or at least indirect benefit to clinical neuropsychological practice, it is part of the argument of this paper to suggest that the benefits are less substantial than is sometimes claimed. As I work with both academic and clinical neuropsychologists, I hold the conviction that theory should be relevant to clinical practice while, at the same time, wanting neuropsychological rehabilitation to be respectable in the eyes of the academic community. However, when treating a patient with brain injury it is sometimes a struggle to implement, or even see the relevance of findings from cognitive neuroscience.

Corresponding author
Reprint requests to: Professor Barbara A. Wilson, MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, Box 58 (Elsworth House), Addenbrooke's Hospital, Hills Road, Cambridge CB2 2QQ, UK. E-mail:
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Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society
  • ISSN: 1355-6177
  • EISSN: 1469-7661
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-the-international-neuropsychological-society
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