In this second edition of Introduction to Neuropsychology, J. Graham Beaumont (Royal Hospital for Neuro-disability, London, UK) sets forth on an ambitious undertaking: he is challenged to improve upon his seminal first edition, a foundational reference found on the bookshelf of many neuropsychologists. Fortunately for the reader, it is a challenge the author willingly accepts. In the second edition, the author conducts an extensive expansion of the first text (written more than 25 years ago) by widening the scope of the book to include new sections on neurorehabilitation, neuroimaging, and neuropsychiatry.
The overall goal of this book appears to be to provide neuropsychological knowledge to those with a firm background in cognitive science and neurobiology. The text accomplishes this via the overall structure of four general sections. Part 1 is an Introductory section containing two chapters dealing with the definition of neuropsychology, the various branches of the discipline, and the structure of the central nervous system. Although the first chapter of this section is particularly strong, the second chapter (“The Structure of the Central Nervous System”) would greatly benefit from the inclusion of more visual aids. This would undoubtedly aid in the acquisition and retention of the major central nervous system structures introduced. Part 2, entitled “Clinical Studies,” contains seven chapters. The first four chapters, a particular strength of the text, cover the four lobes of the brain. Despite the lack of graphical depictions of major neuroanatomical structures, the author succeeds in providing comprehensive, yet accessible, coverage of these important areas. The last four chapters are entitled “Language,” “Degenerative Diseases,” “Profound Brain Injury,” and “Subcortex and Psychosurgery.” Apart from the very specific material contained in the last section, these chapters offer substantive information that is of great importance to students in neuropsychology.
Part 3 detours radically to cover experimental studies in neuropsychology, with chapters entitled “Split Brains and Dual Minds” and “Electrophysiology and Neuroimaging.” Although these chapters offer strong content in the context of an enlightening historical review, it is unclear how the majority of this highly specialized research is important to second- or third-year graduate students. Following on the heels of these chapters is the two chapters contained in Part 4, entitled “Neuropsychological Practice” and “Neuropsychiatry and Neuropsychology.” Fortunately, these are among the strongest chapters of the text and provide a nice summary of the abundance of information provided in the book while spurning future research directions.
There are many positive aspects to Introduction to Neuropsychology. Prominent among these include the addition of many foundational articles as well as an accurate and comprehensive trajectory of the development of divergent subfields of neuropsychology, particularly in the areas of experimental theory and methodology. Particularly impressive is the coverage of theoretical models of cognitive neuroscience, a unique aspect of the text. An additional exceptional aspect of this book is the reporting on experimental neuropsychology, an often neglected area in many introductory neuropsychology texts. The book also provides excellent coverage of the various types of aphasias, the Glasgow Coma Scale, and states of consciousness.
In addition to its noted advantages, this text is unique in that it provides an historical account of the foundations of neuropsychology while synthesizing pertinent information from both clinical and experimental aspects of the discipline. A particular advantage of this book is its inclusion of seminal articles on various topics, which leaves the relatively new reader with a clear sense of the origins and development of particular neuropsychology subfields. Unfortunately, the coverage of the historical underpinnings of neuropsychology rarely carries into coverage of research literature in the past 5 years. Although the author makes his intentions to emphasize historical literature explicit in the preface, he fails to include many important present-day articles. This gap is particularly noticeable in quickly evolving topics such as neuroimaging. As a result, neuropsychology students will fail to benefit from the inclusion of such present-day literature.
The author neglects much of the nuts and bolts knowledge of neuropsychology. It may be a large—and potentially incorrect—assumption that many undergraduate students will have already gained this knowledge prior to reading the text. This is one of the ways that Introduction to Psychology differs from other introductory neuropsychology textbooks, such as Zillmer, Spiers, and Culbertson's Principles of Neuropsychology (2007). It is possible that this text may be too advanced for students without a firm background in cognitive science or neuroscience. Owing to this, this text would work best when paired with another existing text, rather than used by itself. Specifically, the text may form a nice complement to Lezak's Neuropsychological Assessment (1995) and/or Bigler and Clement's (1997)Diagnostic Clinical Neuropsychology.
The emphasis on experimental neuropsychology in Introduction to Neuropsychology may be somewhat of a disadvantage for students exclusively interested in the clinical aspects of neuropsychology, as only approximately one-third of the text covers exclusively clinical issues. The text is also exclusively geared toward adult neuropsychology. Although this is not necessarily a limitation, readers interested in pediatric neuropsychology should seek information in other texts, such as Pediatric Neuropsychology (Yeates, Ris, & Taylor, 2000).
Overall, though, students will benefit from the unique synthesis of clinical and experimental information found in the second edition of Introduction to Neuropsychology. In presenting such information in a comprehensive yet accessible format, Dr. Beaumont succeeds in improving on his already-solid first edition. Given the significant advances in the field, neuropsychologists will eagerly await the third edition of this valuable text.