Neuropsychological Domains

Neuropsychologists are interested in describing brain functioning.  In order to do this they rely on the neuropsychological domains listed above.  Neuropsychological domains are distinct types of functions which the brain uses to execute behaviors.  Some clinicians also include additional domains such as processing speed.  If you click on the links above, you will be provided with more detailed descriptions of these neurocognitive domains.

The Neuropsychological Domains


Attention/Concentration:  This domain deals with the ability to focus awareness on a given stimulus or task, to concentrate on that stimulus or task long enough to accomplish a goal, and to shift awareness if appropriate.  These abilities vary by individual, and may be impaired to the point of becoming a formal attention deficit disorder.  Problems in this domain can make focused searching and interaction difficult.


Language:  Language skills of various types are covered by this domain.  They are typically associated with the left (dominant) cerebral hemisphere.  Both oral, written, the consist of one’s abilities to comprehend repeat and express in these modes,  in addition to finding words and names quickly by category or sound.  Problems in this area can make communication difficult in therapy.


Visuospatial Skills:  This domain deals with the abilities to make sense of the visual world—shapes, angles, larger gestalts vs details, the meaning of forms—and to reproduce what one sees.   Problems here can affect a client’s ability to conceptualize complex ideas and relationships, and lead to an over-reliance on verbal expression.


Motor Skills:  Gross, manual fine-motor, and facial fine-motor abilities are covered here.  Difficulties can make one’s facial expressions or gestures difficult to read, or affect one’s self-esteem.


Executive Functions:  This domain deals with a variety of higher-order functions—planning, conceptualizing, organizing, evaluating—largely concerned with the working of the frontal lobes, the last to evolve and develop in the human brain.  Variations in frontal function vary widely in individuals and are implicated in ADHD, impulse control disorders of various kinds, antisocial behaviors, and the ability to achieve insight.  Difficulties in this domain can be of many kinds, and can make inner searching and insight particularly difficult.


Memory:  Visual, verbal, and motor memory are the usual foci here, with olfactory and gustatory memory usually not having strong psychological implications (although they may be associated with dementia).  Memory can be very brief, short-term, or long-term.  Learning is another dimension here, and can be measured in terms of free or cued recall, as well as by various forms of recognition (yes/no, multiple choice, forced-choice) or cueing (semantic and phonemic).   Problems in this domain can affect recall from session to session in the verbal mode, or even within the session, forcing the therapist to adjust approaches accordingly (e.g., from insight to behavioral interventions).