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Comparative Neuropsychology refers to an approach used for understanding human brain functions. It involves the direct evaluation of clinical neurological populations by employing experimental methods originally developed for use with nonhuman animals.
Over many decades of animal research, methods were perfected to study the effects of well-defined brain lesions on specific behaviors, and later the tasks were modified for human use. Generally the modifications involve changing the reward from food to money, but standard administration of the tasks in humans still involves minimal instructions, thus necessitating a degree of procedural learning in human and nonhuman animals alike.
Currently, comparative neuropsychology is used with neurological patients to link specific deficits with localized areas of the brain.
The comparative neuropsychological approach employs simple tasks that can be mastered without relying upon language skills. Precisely because these simple paradigms do not require linguistic strategies for solution, they are especially useful for working with patients whose language skills are compromised, or whose cognitive skills may be minimal.
Comparative neuropsychology contrasts with the traditional approach of using tasks that rely upon linguistic skills, and that were designed to study human cognition. Because important ambiguities about its heuristic value had not been addressed empirically, only recently has comparative neuropsychology become popular for implementation with brain-damaged patients.
Within the past decade, comparative neuropsychology has had prevalent use as a framework for comparing and contrasting the performances of disparate neurobehavioral populations on similar tasks.
Oscar-Berman, M., & Bardenhagen, F. (1998). Nonhuman primate models of memory dysfunction in neurodegenerative disease: Contributions from Comparative Neuropsychology. In A. Tröster (Ed.), Memory in neurodegenerative disease (pp. 3-20). New York: Cambridge University Press.
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