What Is It?
Neuropsychological testing and neuropsychological assessments involve the evaluation of cognitive abilities and psychiatric functioning using a battery of standardized assessment measures. Neuropsychology involves the relationship between the brain and behavior and a comprehensive neuropsychological assessment can assist with clarifying the reasons or causes for one's behaviors and emotions. This information helps the evaluator develop recommendations for treatment, which could include individual psychotherapy, family psychotherapy, psychiatric intervention, behavioral interventions, training and coaching, special education services and interventions and other specialized interventions, such as occupational therapy, speech therapy, vision therapy, neurological consultations, nutritional counseling, etc.
A comprehensive neuropsychological assessment typically involves evaluations of the following areas:
- Intellectual abilities
- Memory functions
- Language functions
- Sensory-Perceptual functions
- Executive functions (sequencing, planning, organizing)
- Academic achievement
- Personality/emotional functioning
The neuropsychological assessment process begins with an initial interview that includes a comprehensive psychosocial, medical and educational history, as well as a clinical and diagnostic interview. In addition, available records are reviewed (educational, medical, speech therapy, occupational therapy, special education, psychiatric, etc).
The second step involves the administration of the test instruments. This typically lasts from six-to-eight hours, but testing can be shorter or longer if needed. After the testing is completed, the findings are summarized in a detailed report and a feedback session is conducted during which the information is explained in detail and questions are answered. In addition, the psychologist or neuropsychologist may communicate or consult with schools, physicians, or other treatment providers.
Who is qualified to conduct a neuropsychological assessment?
A neuropsychological evaluation can be performed by a licensed psychologist with formal predoctoral and postdoctoral training that focuses on brain-behavior relationships and neuropsychological assessment. Typically neuropsychological assessments are conducted by neuropsychologists.
Are all neuropsychological assessments the same?
No. Although there are some central components of most assessments, each neuropsychological evaluation is tailored to the needs of the individual client based on the referral question the individual's presentation. Fewer tests may be given if screenings are within normal limits, but it is also possible that additional tests may need to be added in order to differentiate between various cognitive weaknesses or neuropsychological issues.
How are the assessment results used?
- Confirm or clarify diagnosis and to assist with differential diagnosis
- Document changes in functioning and evaluate progress or decline in one's functioning
- Develop a profile of strengths and weaknesses to guide better treatment planning
- Refer to other specialists
Who can benefit?
Individuals, treatment providers or families who suspect problems with learning, attention, memory or other cognitive deficits, as well as persons who have neurological conditions or emotional difficulties.