New article type re-unites clinicians and researchers in neuropsychology

Because what happens in the clinic doesn’t (all) have to stay in the clinic

This image appears in the editorial about Clinical Postcards. The figure is taken from Alexander Luria’s "Higher Cortical Functions in Man" (1966) and shows an early, interesting, clinical observation of drawing performance in a patient with "unilateral spatial agnosia," not framed by a theoretical construct which was not available at the time. The figure comes from clinical observations of the 1950s.In clinical settings, unusual behavior can often highlight the need for new research. The problem is: what happens in the clinic often stays in the clinic.

To ensure that observations are considered (anonymously and according to ethical standards, of course), it’s essential to have strong links between clinicians and academic researchers.

For a number of reasons, however, the links between clinical observations and academic research are increasingly under threat.

Growing trends have a detrimental impact on the frequency and scope of experimental research. These include the difficulty of acquiring funding for exploratory studies in neuropsychology, and the emphasis on neuroimaging with neurologically sound participants, which is diverting funding from the study of patients with diseases and conditions.

Furthermore, the absence of specialist neurophysiologists in several countries also contributes to the shortfall in clinical observations being shared with the research community.

The challenge also exists on ethical grounds; in both clinical and academic situations, ethics inhibit certain types of more reactive and exploratory modes of neuropsychological research, yet clinical observations could instigate the demand for behavioral research experiments very quickly.

In response to this challenge, Cortexan international journal published by Elsevier for the study of the nervous system and behaviour — hasdeveloped a new type of article under the alias Clinical Postcards.

Clinical Postcards are a new ultra-brief format that aims to revive the link between clinical observation and academic research, emphasizing that such observations can be the spur for novel and experimental work. In their introductory editorial, Editorial Board members write:

Under the label “Clinical Postcards,” clinicians and researchers are encouraged to submit short communications from the frontline of daily practice. These may be informal insights or impressions held about some patient group or condition, descriptions of symptoms rarely or never reported, interesting observations or incipient theories. The ideas may be tentative and exploratory rather than fleshed out with experimental data and theoretically clad. … With this novel format, we aim in some small way to facilitate fruitful dialogue between clinical practice and academic neuropsychology.

The first Clinical Postcards

These Clinical Postcards are freely available until 27 June 2015:

Read the editorial about Clinical Postcards.

The editorial introducing Clinical Postcards includes this photo recognizing some of the people who contributed greatly to cognitive neuropsychology by studying phenomena firstly observed in clinical settings: Elizabeth Warrington with some of her collaborators. Back row: Merle James, Lisa Cipolotti, Roz McCarthy,  Angela Costello, Doreen Baxter, Pat McKenna, Helen Brittan; front row: Marianne Jackson, Elizabeth Warrington, Francis Clegg, Tim Shallice.


Elsevier Connect Contributors

Emily NashToby CharkinEmily Nash (@ELSneuroscience) is a Marketing Communications Manager at Elsevier, responsible for raising awareness of the neuroscience journals portfolio. After graduating from the University of Warwick in 2011, she developed her professional marketing experience in a range of B2B roles, before moving into STM publishing in 2013. Interests span the social sciences, global marketing strategy and STM publishing.

Toby Charkin (@charkint) is Executive Publisher for behavioural and cognitive neuroscience journals at Elsevier. His portfolio includes Cortex, Neuropsychologia, Appetite, Animal Behaviour, Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews. He attended school in Oxford, received his undergraduate degree from the University of Cambridge and is now based in London. His interests include digital publishing, the history of ancient Rome, and cooking.

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