What is a Neuropsychological or Psychological Evaluation?
A neuropsychological evaluation is a comprehensive assessment of cognitive and behavioral functions using a set of standardized tests and procedures. Various mental functions are systematically tested, including, but not limited to:
- Problem solving and conceptualization
- Planning and organization
- Attention, memory, and learning
- Academic skills
- Perceptual and motor abilities
- Emotions, behavior, and personality
A neuropsychological evaluation is not a fixed series of tests which anyone can give. Specialized training allows the psychologist to select, administer, and interpret the particular battery, tests and procedures which will yield the most comprehensive understanding of an individual’s strengths and weaknesses. Each examination is tailored to the needs of the individual client.
When is a Neuropsychological Evaluation Needed?
A neuropsychological evaluation is recommended for any case in which brain-based impairment in cognitive function or behavior is suspected. Typical referrals are made to diagnose or rule out the following conditions, and to describe their impact on a person’s cognitive functioning:
- Developmental learning disabilities
- Attention deficit disorders
- Autism spectrum disorder
- Language disorders
- Intellectual disability
- Psychiatric or neuropsychiatric disorders
- Effects of toxic chemicals or chronic substance abuse
Evaluating children with medical histories that can impact development such as:
- Concussion / Traumatic brain injury (TBI)
- Genetic disorders such as velocardiofacial syndrome (VCFS), neurofibromatosis (NF), chromosomal deletions, and Fragile X
- Failure to thrive
- Preterm birth / low birth weight
- Cerebral palsy
- Lyme’s disease
- History of radiation, bone marrow transplant, and/or chemotherapy
- Prenatal exposure to substances
- History of orphanage care
Evaluating for mood and behavioral concerns such as:
- Mood disorders such as bipolar disorder and depression
- Post traumatic stress disorder
- Obsessive compulsive disorder
- Generalized anxiety disorder
- Psychotic disorders & schizophrenia
Neuropsychological evaluation can assist greatly in diagnostic clarification as well as in planning educational and vocational programs. It can also be invaluable for disability determination or for forensic (legal) purposes.
What is an Exam Like?
Generally, a neuropsychological evaluation involves a wide variety of tasks, most of which are done sitting at a table or at bedside in a hospital. There are no invasive procedures, no pain, no needles, or electrodes. The evaluation often takes 6 to 8 hours of face-to-face contact, but can vary widely depending on what information is being sought. The evaluation can be scheduled in a single appointment or in a series of appointments.
How are the Test Results Used?
That depends on the reason for the evaluation. Neuropsychological evaluations may:
- Confirm or clarify a diagnosis.
- Provide a profile of strengths and weaknesses to guide rehabilitation, educational,vocational, or other services.
- Document changes in functioning since prior examinations, including effects of treatment.
- Clarify what compensatory strategies would help.
- Result in referrals to other specialists, such as educational therapists, cognitive rehabilitation professionals, neurologists, psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, nurses, special education teachers, or vocational counselors.