Penn State

Peter A. Arnett - Professor of Psychology, Penn State University Park

Book Title: The Working Brain: An Introduction to Neuropsychology

Author: Lurii͡a, A. R.|q(Aleksandr Romanovich),|d1902-1977

Book Description:

This book by Luria is one of the seminal works in the field of Neuropsychology. Luria was a Russian psychologist with extensive training in neurology who also worked closely with many neurological patients. He derived many of his theories about brain functioning through his work with these patients and articulated a theory of brain organization that was way ahead of its time. Although this particular book was written almost 40 years ago (1973), it is still relevant today, and I routinely have my students read excerpts from it. Luria recognized that even relatively simple behaviors and cognitions were likely the result of the involvement of complex neural systems within the brain, a notion that has since been corroborated by contemporary neuroimaging studies. Luria was keenly aware of how entire systems in the brain were at work when patients were asked to perform complex cognitive tasks, and how dysfunction at any point in the system involved in such tasks could result in impaired task performance. He brilliantly illustrated these facts with numerous case examples in The Working Brain, showing how the same cognitive deficit could result from disruptions in widely disparate parts of the brain. Luria’s approach to understanding cognitive and behavioral deficits in his neurological patients anticipated the development of the process approach to clinical neuropsychology, an approach that is central to the field today and guides much research and clinical practice.

I chose this particular book because, more than any other influence during my early development as a scholar in graduate school, Luria’s Working Brain inspired me to become a clinical neuropsychologist. I have always loved music. Reading Luria’s Working Brain for the first time was like first hearing a great work of music. Like a great piece of music, this book inspired me not only at an intellectual level, but also at an emotional level. It is that fusing of emotion and intellect that often provides us with our greatest inspiration; Luria’s seminal work did that for me.


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