How Neuropsychology Lost Its Mind

(Pornpak Khunatorn/Getty Images)

A critical health-care field has suddenly found itself confronted by far-left activists demanding to transform it based on unfounded accusations of racism.

Sign in here to read more.

A critical health-care field has suddenly found itself confronted by far-left activists demanding to transform it based on unfounded accusations of systemic racism.

I s the pilot on your airplane fit to fly? Is your surgeon too old to operate on your heart? Does your daughter have brain damage? Such are the serious questions that neuropsychologists must answer daily, and to ensure that we reach the right decisions, we spend years in advanced scientific study and training.

But since 2022, neuropsychology has suddenly found itself confronted by far-left activists demanding to transform it based on unfounded accusations of systemic racism. They are doing so under the guise of the “Minnesota Conference,” a meeting filled with representatives from the field’s professional associations and charged with recommending updates to neuropsychology’s training guidelines — guidelines that will be finalized in the coming months. The ideologues opened the conference by demanding “paradigmatic changes” in how neuropsychologists do science to make it more “equitable and just,” effectively decentering science to “center social justice and representation.” Among other deeply concerning citations, the conference pointed to a reading that explained that science contributes to “systems of oppression” and is corroded by “colonial and capitalistic mentalities.” For a science-based field, antagonism toward science is intellectual suicide.

The activists have spent a decade preparing for their moment. In 2014, they gained seats at the field’s leadership table by advocating for greater diversity to increase minority representation in the field — a proposal that rank-and-file neuropsychologists welcomed with open arms. But it turned out the activists wanted much more than diversity. Within a few years, they had changed board-election bylaws and put other activists in leadership positions — all ostensibly to promote “diversity” but, in reality, giving themselves power to push their ideological agenda. The Minnesota Conference is the capstone of activists’ campaign to transform the field, letting them dictate the education that occurs in the internships, fellowships, and certification programs for the next generation of neuropsychologists.

The draft training guidelines, released last May, show how deep the ideological infiltration goes. The preamble states that clinical neuropsychology must “strive to repair historical and contemporary bias” as well as “structural and systemic oppression.” Practically, our profession’s members should be taught to “demonstrate awareness of intersectionality” and “advocate for marginalized and/or minoritized individuals, populations, and perspectives.” The conference even decided to authorize an apology to be written for the field’s alleged complicity in systemic racism. I could go on.

Absent from the guidelines was the recognition that every moment spent on intersectionality, oppression, and equity takes away precious time from learning actual science and clinical expertise. Future neuropsychologists are best served by studying the knowledge and skills that enable us to treat patients and make decisions — decisions, I might add, with profound effects. After all, misdiagnoses ruin lives.

Where is the all-important scientific evidence to justify this transformation in training? The conference pointed to several studies that don’t exactly deserve the name. For example, one study found that discrimination “pervades” neuropsychology based on a sample size of just twelve neuropsychologists in a field of thousands — not exactly rigorous research. Given that the study appeared in a chapter titled “Liberating the Narratives of BIPOC Neuropsychologists,” and the authors deny “ahistorical scientific neutrality,” I suspect the study may not be neutral. Using biased science to push a predetermined ideological agenda is exactly the opposite of how science is supposed to work.

When the guidelines were released, the dissent by rank-and-file neuropsychologists was vociferous, especially within the membership of the American Academy of Clinical Neuropsychology, the largest association of board-certified neuropsychologists in North America. The academy’s leadership responded by increasing its moderation of speech on its internal listserv. Soon to follow were insinuations that racism was the real reason for opposition to far-left ideology replacing science and standards. With suppression of online discourse and neuropsychologists self-censoring out of fear of being labeled a racist, the momentum against the guidelines has been effectively squashed.

Brain tumors, brain injuries, strokes — the consequences of such catastrophic events are what neuropsychologists deal with every day. If the stakes for patients were not so high, it would be comical, but instead, it’s tragic. If our future trainees spend their time learning about microaggressions and systemic racism instead of neuroanatomy, they won’t know the right side of their brain from their left, to the detriment of the patients we see from all walks of life. The Minnesota Conference’s final guidelines are coming out soon, and if they are as anti-scientific as they look set to be, the only logical conclusion is that neuropsychology has lost its mind.

Larry Brooks is a board-certified neuropsychologist and a visiting fellow at Do No Harm.
You have 1 article remaining.
You have 2 articles remaining.
You have 3 articles remaining.
You have 4 articles remaining.
You have 5 articles remaining.
Exit mobile version