Definition and Overview
Also known as neuropsychological assessment, neuropsychology evaluation refers to the assessment of behavior and/or cognition in relation to the brain. It involves the review of the patient’s medical records, which is followed by an interview and the administration of a variety of tests. The assessment can be performed by a pre-doctoral psychologist with an in-depth background in neuropsychology or a doctoral psychology with an expertise in the relationship between brain and cognition or behavior.
Who Should Undergo and Expected Results
Neuropsychology evaluation may be recommended to:
Patients who suffered from a brain injury or neurological disease such as dementia – The evaluation can be helpful in understanding the full extent of the impairment. Although brain scans can help identify the physiological changes in the brain, they do not reveal the effects of the damage or impairment to the patient’s overall function and skills.
People who want to have a better understanding of themselves – The evaluation may be carried out on individuals who may experience sudden changes in behavior such as mood or cognitive skill even with the absence of a neurological disease or injury. For example, a person may wish to identify whether fatigue is caused by stress or it’s already a sign of depression.
Children – Certain tests can be administered to children especially if their development is different from that of the general population. These children may be slow to learn, lack social skills appropriate for their age, or prone to rage.
The evaluation can:
- Provide a more accurate diagnosis to the patient
- Help doctors, including psychologists, develop a treatment or management program to help the patient function as normal as possible
- Determine whether the patient has to be referred to specialists for a more specific help
- Track the progression of the disease or injury
- Identify potential cognitive and behavioral issues and formulate ways to reduce or eliminate their negative impact on the patient
- Provide the patient a clearer picture of his health
How Does the Procedure Work?
Patients who go through neuropsychology evaluation are often referred by their educators, social workers, or primary doctors.
The first phase involves the review of medical records, including medications, procedures undertaken, and past and present conditions or injuries.
The second phase is the interview in which the neuropsychologist delves deeper into the main concern of the patient. He may ask about:
- Physical, emotional, and cognitive changes after the illness or injury
- Limitations on function
- Social relationship
He can also use this time to make some observations.
The third step is to conduct examinations, which are typically a combination of tests that vary in length, coverage, and objective. The tests may measure:
- Academic skills and language
- Memory and attention
- Cognitive learning
- Problem-solving and abstract reasoning
- Behavior and emotions
Often, they are pen-and-paper tests that take at least an hour to complete. These tests may be broken down into sessions depending on the physical and mental condition of the patient.
The tests are then checked, analyzed, and interpreted. The results will then be used to determine the most appropriate treatment plan for the patient.
Possible Risks and Complications
While there are guides, the analysis and interpretation of the results of the exam depend largely on the neuropsychologist. To ensure that the patient gets the most accurate diagnosis, he needs to work with a referred psychologist with extensive background in neuropsychology evaluation.
- Sadock BJ, Sadock VA (2007). Clinical neuropsychological testing. In Kaplan and Sadock’s Synopsis of Psychiatry: Behavioral Sciences/Clinical Psychiatry, 10th ed., pp. 178-189. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins