Thursday, March 28, 2024

Neurodivergent vs. Neurotypical Individuals: Understanding the Spectrum of Human Cognition and Behavior

 How do neurodiverse individuals differ from neurotypical individuals?

Nana Awuah, March 28, 2024

In the vast field of human cognition and behavior, diversity goes far past what most readers would anticipate. Neuroscience is the collected multidisciplinary sciences that analyze the nervous system to understand the biological basis for behavior (Bloom, 2013). The neurological variances resulting from the complex functioning and structure of the brain influence how individuals experience and engage with the world. In this blog article, I explore the various aspects of neurodiversity with the goal of distinguishing  between what is considered neurotypical and what is considered neurodivergent.

As the complexities of neurological diversity are revealed, I’ll aim to help you better understand and appreciate the distinctive perspectives that make each of us unique!

Defining Neurodiverse & Neurotypical

Neurodiverse is a term commonly used to describe persons displaying or characterized by autistic or other neurologically atypical patterns of thought or behavior. Gregor Wolbring (2007) provides a frequently cited definition, “Neurodiversity is defined as the whole of human mental or psychological neurological structures or behaviors, seen as not necessarily problematic, but as alternate, acceptable forms of human biology” (see Nelson, 2020). Individuals diagnosed with certain disorders, such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, anxiety, borderline personality disorder, dyslexia, dysgraphia, etc. are often identified as Neurodiverse.

On the other hand, Neurotypical is a term often used to describe persons who think, perceive, and behave in ways that are considered the norm by the general population. 

Many might ask, "Is neurotypical really identifiable? Is it simply the absence of a diagnosis? " Individual variances arise from differences in biological make-up, family history, and brain anatomy. This phrase is frequently used to characterize individuals whose neurological functioning and development are consistent with neurological expectations. It is context-dependent and somewhat broad, however, and there is likely no such thing as a "perfect" brain. 

Neurotypical individuals are often described as someone who thinks and processes information in an expected way for their culture and setting (Villines, 2022). Additionally, they can be identified through social context,  or a

clinical/diagnostic context. People who exhibit cognitive and behavioral characteristics in line with society's norms are often referred to as "neurotypical." Perhaps in contrast, Jurgens (2020) characterizes neurodiverse individuals with rote memory skills, ability to assimilate information quickly, long-term information memory, and high levels of concentration on specialized interests.

Why is it important to understand neurodiversity?

Learning about neurodiversity is significant to society because it makes that group of people feel recognized and acknowledged. Society should understand that not everyone functions the way we might expect them to, as understanding neurodiversity doesn’t only make neurodiverse individuals feel accepted, but it also highlights their unique abilities, allows people to see the good in differences, and creates opportunities for innovation.


Now that I have provided a brief overview of Neurodiversity and Neurotypicality, I ask that you stay tuned, as I will be examining what it means to be neurotypical and neurodiverse more in depth in my upcoming articles. This blog series will explore several characteristics commonly associated with neurodivergent and neurotypical individuals and why there might not be as much awareness as there should be due to limited representation, misinformation, historical perspectives, and other factors.  

Works Cited

Bloom, F. E. (2013). Fundamentals of neuroscience. In Fundamental neuroscience (p. 3). Academic Press. 

Jurgens, A. (2020). “Neurodiversity in a neurotypical world: an enactive framework for investigating autism and social institutions” in Neurodiversity studies: A new critical paradigm. 1st Edn. eds. H. B. Rosqvist, N. Chown and A. Stenning (London: Routledge), 73–88.

Nelson, R.H. (2021), A Critique of the Neurodiversity View. J Appl Philos, 38: 335-347. 

Wolbring, G. (2007). Neurodiversity, neuroenhancement, neurodisease, and neurobusiness. Pro Neurodiversity website. (see Nelson R.H., 2020). 

Villines, Z. (2022, February 4). What does neurotypical and neurodivergent mean?. Medical News Today.

Who is the person behind the research?

Hello! My name is Nana Awuah. I am currently a senior at West Potomac High School, located in Alexandria, VA, while interning for the Virginia Tech Thinkabit Lab. I have a passion for Neuroscience and understanding the psychology behind why humans act the way they do. The Thinkabit Lab has given me opportunities to delve deeper into my passions and interests as well as providing me a platform to share my research and bring awareness to the broad aspects of Neurodiversity. My goal for this project is not only to educate others, bring awareness to neurodiversity, and promote inclusivity, but also to expand my personal knowledge and educate myself on the things I don’t yet know about Neuroscience.

Connect with me:

I am always willing to hear inputs about my research and blog posts, so feel free to reach out to me. Thank you for your time!

Nana Awuah | she/her