What is a Neuropsychological Evaluation?

A neuropsychological evaluation is a process used to determine the relationship between your brain and behavior. It typically consists of three phases – interview, assessment, and feedback – and is used to answer any number of questions about past, present and future brain functioning. Some common questions and concerns are:

Assessment

The assessment portion is conducted with either a neuropsychologist or a technician that is trained and supervised by the neuropsychologist. During this phase, a series of standardized tests are given to determine the nature of your presenting complaint. These tests measure various types of brain functions, including:

  • Intelligence
  • Attention and concentration
  • Learning and memory
  • Problem solving and planning
  • Visuospatial functions
  • Language functions
  • Functional abilities
  • Sensory/perceptual functions
  • Motor functions
  • Other complex cognitive abilities

How Are Neuropsychological Evaluations Used?

Detection of Injury: Negative Imaging

There are many causes and outcomes of brain impairment. The source of impairment cannot always be detected on common imaging studies, like Computerized Tomography (sometimes referred to as a “CT” or “cat” scan) or Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). A neuropsychological evaluation is extremely useful in these situations, as many neuropsychological tests are highly sensitive to very subtle changes in brain functioning that would be otherwise missed.

Description of Injury: Positive Imaging

Neuropsychological assessment is also useful when structural abnormalities are found on imaging studies. The results of an evaluation conducted by a qualified neuropsychologist can supplement findings by determining the nature and degree of impairment as it relates to the physical abnormalities.

Evaluation of Other Impairments

A neuropsychologist often performs an assessment of other areas of functioning, such as academic skills or emotional functioning, even when no biological causes are suspected. An evaluation almost always is tailored to answer referral questions, and is further refined based on information obtained during an initial interview.

Guidance: Present and Future

The results of a neuropsychological evaluation provide an objective evaluation of current cognitive functioning. Further information can be obtained about prognosis for both short- and long-term outcomes, and can yield recommendations, guiding specific interventions.