Human Neuropsychology in Canada: The 1980s (Overview of Research in the Field in the 1980s)

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Abstract

This article presents an overview of research activity in the field of human neuropsychology that has been carried out in Canada during the 1980s. Included are brief descriptions of investigations of many facets of the neuropsychology of both children and adults conducted by prominent researchers at major institutions across the country. The work reviewed herein serves to illustrate the rather extensive commitment to research in human neuropsychology that has been made by investigators in Canada. It is clear that Canadian leadership in this important area of scientific endeavour can be expected to continue.

Human neuropsychology in Canada in the 1980s rests on a long legacy of eminent contributions made by several investigators who were instrumental in developing and defining the nature of brain-behaviour relationships. Of principal importance was the publication of Donald Hebb's Organization of Behaviour (1949), which described in detail his theory of biological psychology that emphasized the role of behaviour. Setting the tone for future research, Hebb also published numerous articles dealing with perception, learning, and memory in both animals and humans.

Canadian researchers over the past four decades have been in the forefront of research investigating the effects of brain lesions on higher cortical functions. Some have been pioneering "localizationists"; others have contributed much to our knowledge regarding laterization of functions, the specification of functional cerebral asymmetries, and memory. Developmental neuropsychology and the neuropsychology of learning disabilities have also been major areas of investigation. Canadian research in these and many other subspecialties of neuropsychology is, more than ever before, in the vanguard of the field. In proportion to respective populations, Canada harbours more eminent researchers in the field than any other country, including the United States.

Before proceeding with our review, some points regarding its scope and limitations should be mentioned. The purpose of this article is to review the research activity in Canada in the field of human neuropsychology during the 1980s. This proved to be a mammoth undertaking, particularly in comparison to a similar review conducted on this topic for the decade of the 1970s (Rourke, Fisk, Strang, & Gates, 1981). We estimate that the volume of work has easily quadrupled from one decade to the next. Thus, we adopted an organizational framework very different from that used in the Rourke et al. (1981) study.

In order to collect the information required to conduct this review, a list of approximately 100 Canadian neuropsychologists was compiled from the membership rosters of the Canadian Psychological Association, Division 1 (Brain and Behaviour) and Division 23 (Clinical Neuropsychology), and the International Neuropsychological Society. A letter describing the scope of the project and requesting reprints of research conducted during the 1980s was mailed to each investigator. The response rate was approximately 50%. Additional efforts were made to acquire the work of those who did not respond.

It would have been impossible to review all of the work done in all facets of neuropsychology across a 10-year time span. Therefore, we opted for a review of the research that has been conducted in the major centres across the country, by a selection of the most prominent researchers in the field. This results in a review that is, by necessity, representative rather than inclusive. Although it is a tribute to neuropsychology in Canada that such a massive corpus of excellent research has been conducted in this country in a relatively short period of time, an unfortunate aspect of this state of affairs is that we could not include much research deserving of mention. Moreover, we were unable to provide references for all of the work done by each of the investigators mentioned. In some instances, this would have required literally hundreds of citations. …