What is a neuropsychological evaluation?
A neuropsychological evaluation can provide invaluable information about why someone may be having difficulty with memory, attention, language, problem solving or decision-making. The goal of a neuropsychological evaluation is to aid in differential diagnosis (what exactly is going on) and inform treatment recommendations to maximize independence and quality of life (what we are going to do about it).
A neuropsychological evaluation can:
- Determine if changes in cognition, including memory, are related to normal aging or dementia
- Establish a baseline so that changes in thinking skills, mood and personality can be monitored over time and treatment options can be updated
- Help the patient and family make decisions about work and driving
- Educate family members about how a brain disorder has affected the patient’s thinking skills and personality so they can better help and understand
- Provide information for a physician in order to help with medication selection to reduce side effects or improve cognition
What can you expect during a neuropsychological evaluation?
A neuropsychological evaluation typically occurs over three sessions (can be reduced to two if the patient is traveling from a significant distance).
Clinical interview: This is the first step in the evaluation and typically takes one hour. It provides your neuropsychologist a chance to learn about the personal, social and medical context within which the cognitive concerns occur. During the interview, your neuropsychologist will review many aspects of a person’s background including early childhood, family history, academic and work functioning, medical diagnoses, medications, mental health, coping skills, socialization and hobbies/current interests. She will also review medical records from your referring doctor. The clinical interview is time to provide your neuropsychologist with any important documents for review including MRI and CT scans, EEG studies, school records or prior neuropsychological or psychological evaluation.
Testing: This is the second step in the evaluation and typically takes 3 hours (but can range from 2-5 hours). The majority of these tests are paper and pencil based and will be administered by a trained technician. The test instructions will be clearly explained. The setting is intended to be comfortable and you will be offered rest breaks and water. The goal is to identify areas of cognitive strengths and weaknesses and break down complex cognitive process into their individual parts to determine how and why the person is having difficulty. Abilities across a range of areas are tested including general intellectual skills, attention/concentration, executive functions (planning, multitasking, inhibition, reasoning), verbal and non-verbal learning memory, speech and language, visuospatial abilities and motor functioning. Mood and personality are also often assessed.
Feedback: This is the third, and final, step in the evaluation and typically takes one hour. Once your neuropsychologist has scored and integrated the test data with the medical records and information gathered in the interview, a comprehensive report is written. This report will be reviewed during the feedback session in understandable language. The goal of a feedback session is two-fold. Firstly, it is important for the person to understand in detail exactly what the results of the evaluation are and to discuss the personalized treatment recommendations your neuropsychologist believes will help. Recommendations range widely and can include cognitive training, supportive therapy, medication, or another medical evaluation.
How should I prepare for a neuropsychological evaluation?
- Bring your eyeglasses or hearing aids, if you wear them
- Take your medication as you normally would
- Get a good night’s sleep the night before, eat a good breakfast or lunch
- It’s natural to feel a little nervous when we think about being tested but remember your neuropsychologist and her office staff will do their best to make you feel at comfortable and respected.
- The most important thing is to try your very best!
We provide neuropsychological evaluations to adults 18 and older.