What is a Neuropsychological Evaluation?

(from www.neuropsychologycentral.com

A neuropsychological evaluation is a comprehensive assessment of cognitive and behavioral functions using a set of standardized tests and procedures. Various mental functions are systematically tested, including, but not limited to:

  • Intelligence
  • Problem solving and conceptualization
  • Planning and organization
  • Attention, memory, and learning
  • Language
  • Academic skills
  • Perceptual and motor abilities
  • Emotions, behavior, and personality

Who is Qualified to Conduct a Neuropsychological Evaluation?

A neuropsychological evaluation can only be done by a licensed psychologist who has had specialized training and experience in the field, which include:

  • Predoctoral training in psychology and neuropsychology which includes an organized graduate course of study in neuropsychology.
  • Formal postdoctoral training focusing on brain-behavior relationships and neuropsychological assessment.

When is Neuropsychological Evaluation Needed?

A neuropsychological evaluation is recommended for any case in which brain-based impairment in cognitive function or behavior is suspected. Typical referrals are made to diagnose or rule out the following conditions, and to describe their impact on a person's cognitive functioning:

  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Strokes
  • Developmental learning disabilities
  • Attention deficit disorders
  • Psychiatric or neuropsychiatric disorders
  • Seizure disorders
  • Medical illness or treatments
  • Effects of toxic chemicals or chronic substance abuse
  • Dementing conditions (e.g., Alzheimer's Disease)

A neuropsychological evaluation is particularly useful for tracking progress in rehabilitation after brain injury or other neurological disease.
Neuropsychological evaluation can assist greatly in planning educational and vocational programs. It can also be invaluable for disability determination or for forensic (legal) purposes.


Are All Neuropsychological Evaluations the Same?

No. A neuropsychological evaluation is not a fixed series of tests which anyone can give. Specialized training allows the neuropsychologist to select, administer, and interpret the particular battery, tests and procedures which will yield the most comprehensive understanding of an individual's strengths and weaknesses.  While each neuropsychological examination is tailored to the needs of the individual client, some neuropsychologists, particularly in forensic settings rely on established batteries of tests supplemented by tests which explain or examine additional areas of function in more detail.


What is an Exam Like?

Generally, a neuropsychological evaluation involves a wide variety of tasks, most of which are done sitting at a table or at bedside in a hospital. There are no invasive procedures, no pain, no needles, or electrodes. The evaluation often takes 6 to 8 hours of face-to-face contact, but can vary widely depending on what information is being sought. The evaluation can be scheduled in a single appointment or in a series of appointments.


How are the Test Results Used?

That depends on the reason for the evaluation. Neuropsychological evaluations may:

  • Confirm or clarify a diagnosis.
  • Provide a profile of strengths and weaknesses to guide rehabilitation, educational, vocational, or other services.
  • Document changes in functioning since prior examinations, including effects of treatment.
  • Clarify what compensatory strategies would help.
  • Result in referrals to other specialists, such as educational therapists, cognitive rehabilitation professionals, neurologists, psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, nurses, special education teachers, or vocational counselors.