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What is a Neuropsychological Evaluation?

A neuropsychological evaluation involves testing that is sensitive to problems in brain functioning. Unlike CT or MRI scans, which show what the structure of the brain looks like, neuropsychological testing examines how well the brain is working when it performs certain functions (for example, remembering). These functions or tasks form the necessary building blocks of successful living in the individual's daily life. Impairment in many of these functions may exist because of brain abnormalities that cannot be detected on CT or MRI scans. Therefore, neuropsychological assessment is a procedure with a unique purpose; it can be used to reveal or diagnose brain dysfunction when no structural brain abnormalities can be seen. Furthermore, when structural abnormalities have been found, neuropsychological assessment provides a way to determine what functions may be impaired because of the structural defects, and to determine the degree to which they may be impaired.

Why Get a Neuropsychological Evaluation?
A neuropsychological evaluation provides comprehensive assessment of patients in whom impairments of cognitive or neuropsychiatric functioning are evident or suspected.  Assessment involves a systematic evaluation of higher cognitive abilities in order to identify possible problems with brain functioning, help lead to a diagnosis, define strengths and weaknesses, and make treatment recommendations.

A wide range of conditions may affect neuropsychological functioning, such as:

  • Traumatic brain injury

  • Neurological conditions including stroke, epilepsy, brain tumors, multiple sclerosis (MS), Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, etc.

  • Medical conditions such as liver disease, Lupus, HIV infection, or cardiac disease

  • Learning and Developmental Disorders

  • Attention-Deficit Disorders (ADHD, aka ADD)

  • Various psychiatric conditions

  • Suspected memory problems or dementia

A neuropsychological evaluation may contribute to decisions about:

  • Prognosis and disposition planning

  • Rehabilitation issues

  • Ability to return to work

  • Ability to function independently

  • Tracking of changes in functioning over time

  • Educational and vocational planning

What Tests Are Used?
The types of tests that you will take depend upon the questions you and your doctor have. The tests may assess the following areas: attention and memory, reasoning and problem-solving, visual-spatial functions, language functions, sensory-perceptual functions, motor functions, academic skills, and emotional functioning.

The tests are not invasive; that is, they do not involve attaching you to machines or using X-rays. Most of the tests will involve answering questions, solving problems, drawing, or working with materials on a table. Some tests may use a computer and others may ask you to fill out forms and questionnaires.  The testing may be performed by the neuropsychologist or by a trained technician. The neuropsychologist or a technician will also spend some time talking with you and your family about your medical, personal, and school history. The total time involved in your evaluation will depend upon the questions you and your doctor have.  If you wear glasses or hearing aids, make sure to bring them with you.  Also, if you have had previous testing, please bring any available records with you to the evaluation.

What Will Happen After the Evaluation?
The neuropsychologist may schedule an appointment to go over the results with you and/or may send you a written report. With your permission, the neuropsychologist may send the results to the doctor or healthcare provider who referred you. This doctor may talk to you about the results of testing on your next office visit. If requested, the neuropsychologist will give you specific recommendations to guide your treatment or otherwise help you in your daily life.

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