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:
"I had a head injury in a car accident and now I can't focus or remember things. What's going on, and will I get better?"
"I feel like I'm losing my memory, and my father had Alzheimer's. Does this mean I have Alzheimer's, too?"
"Our son's grades have really taken a nosedive this year, but he's always been a good student. We're concerned because his teachers say he might have ADHD."
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.