Neuropsychology is an intensively developing branch of psychology, the main task of which is to study the brain mechanisms of mental processes.
The neuropsychological theory is based on the concept of the systemic structure of higher mental functions (HPF), according to which each of them is a complex functional system consisting of many links (or factors). Violations of the same function proceed differently depending on which link (factor) is affected. Therefore, the central task of neuropsychological research is to determine the qualitative specificity of the disorder, and not simply to state the fact of a disorder of a particular function. A qualitative analysis of impaired mental function is carried out using a special set of methods based on clinical data. Neuropsychology allows you to describe and evaluate the interaction of the brain and psyche.
Clinical neuropsychology is a branch of neuropsychology, the main task of which is to study neuropsychological syndromes that occur when a particular part of the brain is affected and compare them with the general clinical picture of neurological or psychiatric diseases or developmental features.
Due to the fact that the child’s body (including the brain), unlike adults, is in a state of development, the clinical picture of neurological and neuropsychological symptoms and syndromes in childhood looks different. To study these features, within the framework of neuropsychology, the neuropsychology of childhood stood out – the science of the formation of the cerebral organization of mental processes. Recently, it has become increasingly popular as a method of syndromic psychological analysis of mental deficit in children associated with one or another cerebral insufficiency (organic or functional) or lack of development.
The general psychological basis of neuropsychology is the provision on the systemic structure and systemic cerebral organization of VPFunctions. Higher mental functions are complex forms of conscious mental activity, which are based on a corresponding motive and which are regulated by appropriate goals and programs. VPFunctions are not given to the child initially, at birth. They are formed over time, in close interaction with adults, can be arbitrarily regulated and mediated by speech.
Examples of VIFunctions are:
- different types of perception (forms of objects, symbols, spatial relationships, speech sounds, etc.) – gnosis;
- various motor functions – praxis (kinesthetic, dynamic, spatial);
- spatial representations;
- memory (auditory-speech, visual);
The path of HMF development in a child is not straightforward, it is heterochronous and asynchronous: at some point, a violent and seemingly “autonomous” development of a certain psychological factor (phonemic hearing, memory selectivity, coordinating ideas, etc.) begins. At the same time, another factor is in a state of relative stability, and the third is at the stage of consolidation with a functional system that seems to be completely remote from it. And normally, these multidirectional processes at certain periods should be synchronized in order to create, in aggregate, an integral ensemble of mental activity, capable of adequately responding to the demands that the world around the child presents. Unfortunately, at present, the number of children with various neuropsychiatric diseases and developmental disabilities is constantly increasing. Such children, even without medical diagnoses, demonstrate varying degrees of severity, learning problems. The reasons for this, apparently, are the deterioration of the ecological situation, low physical activity of children, a decrease in the time of communication with adults, computer addiction.
Learning difficulties become most apparent in primary school. But even at the preschool stage, attentive parents notice difficulties in concentrating attention, restlessness, difficulty remembering, lack of desire and ability to draw, problems with learning to read and count, motor awkwardness and coordination difficulties, left-handedness.
All this, and also if the child:
- crawled little or did not crawl at all;
- walked on tiptoe;
- started talking late;
- unnecessarily slow;
- gets tired quickly;
- moves legs or tongue when writing;
- when reading, “swallows” the endings, “guesses” the words;
- skips, replaces letters, often writes them in a mirror image;
- does not bring the matter to the end – is the reason for neuropsychological diagnostics.
Neuropsychological diagnostics also makes it possible to ascertain or exclude violations of cognitive activity with the following medical diagnoses:
- retardation of mental and speech development;
- attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD);
- traumatic brain injury;
- consequences of perinatal encephalopathy (PEP);
- minimal brain dysfunction (MMD);
- hypertensive syndrome;
- birth injury.
A neuropsychologist can also help parents and doctors assess the consequences of taking drugs used to treat these diseases, the effects of general anesthesia, chemotherapy and other effects on the child’s brain.
Thus, neuropsychological diagnostics helps:
- to establish the causes of the above diseases and developmental features;
- make a differential diagnosis between them;
- predict the further development of the child;
- determine measures to prevent unwanted consequences;
- identify ways of correction.
In the neuropsychology of childhood, a systematic approach to the correction and support of the child’s mental development has been developed. The method of replacement ontogenesis (MLO) is a basic neuropsychological technology for the correction, prevention and habilitation of children with different developmental options.
The principle of correlating the child’s current status with the main stages of the formation of the cerebral organization of mental processes and the subsequent retrospective reproduction of those areas of his ontogenesis that, for one reason or another, have not been effectively mastered, serves as the fundamental principle in the MLO.
The impact on the sensorimotor level, taking into account the general patterns of ontogenesis, causes an activation in the development of all HMFs. Since it is basic for the further development of HMF, at the beginning of the correction process, preference is given to motor methods that activate, restore and build up interactions between different levels and aspects of mental activity. Actualization and consolidation of any bodily skills presuppose the external demand for such mental functions as, for example, emotions, perception, memory, self-regulation processes, etc. Consequently, a basic prerequisite is created for the full participation of these processes in the mastery of reading, writing, mathematics.
Many features of a child’s development can be corrected by going through all the stages of his sensorimotor development anew, starting from birth.