What is Clinical Neuropsychology?

Clinical neuropsychology is a specialty profession that focuses on brain functioning. A clinical neuropsychologist is a licensed psychologist with expertise in how behavior and skills are related to brain structures and systems.

What is a Neuropsychological 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:

  • Intelligence
  • Problem solving and conceptualization
  • Planning and organization
  • Attention, memory, and learning
  • Language
  • Academic skills
  • Perceptual and motor abilities
  • Emotions, behavior, and personality

Why would someone be referred for an evaluation?

Testing is usually recommended when there are symptoms or complaints involving memory or thinking. This may be signaled by a change in concentration, organization, reasoning, memory, language, perception, coordination, or personality. The change may be due to any of a number of medical, neurological, psychological, or genetic causes.

How are test scores used to understand a specific situation?

An individual’s test scores will be compared to scores from people of a similar age and educational background, which allows a neuropsychologist to determine if an individual’s scores fall within the ‘normal’ range of functioning. The pattern of test scores will also be reviewed to determine changes in certain abilities. Using these methods, an individual’s strengths and weakness can be identified.

What information is provided by assessment results?

Test results can be used to understand an individual’s situation in a variety of ways:
  • Testing can identify weaknesses in specific areas, such as memory or language skills.
  • Test results can also be used to help to differentiate among illnesses, which is important because appropriate treatment depends on accurate diagnosis. Your physician will use this information along with the results of other tests, such as brain imaging and blood tests, to come to the most informed diagnosis possible.
  • Sometimes testing is used to establish a “baseline,” or document a person’s skills before there is any problem.
  • Test results can be used to plan treatments that use strengths to compensate for weaknesses. The results help to identify what target problems to work on and which strategies to use. For example, the results can help to plan and monitor rehabilitation or to follow the recovery of skills after a stroke or traumatic brain injury.

What to expect?

A neuropsychological evaluation usually consists of an interview and testing. During the interview, information that is important for the neuropsychologist to consider will be reviewed. You will be asked about your symptoms, medical history, medications, and other important factors. Testing involves taking paper-and pencil or computerized tests and answering questions. The time required depends on the problem being assessed. In general, several hours are needed to assess the many skills involved in processing information. Some tests will be easy while others will be more complex. The most important thing is try your best. Bring glasses or hearing aids if you use them. Try to rest and relax before your evaluation. You will probably find testing interesting, and the detailed information that is gathered will contribute to your care.