Neuropsychological Evaluations can determine if there are specific areas or patterns of reduced functioning that can be related to certain causes, such as head injury, stroke, or learning disability.
Neuropsychological Evaluations can be used to make meaningful clinical predictions about a person's capacity to function, and their ability to engage in life’s normal activities, e.g. going to school or work, living independently, managing their finances, etc.
- What does a neuropsychological evaluation consist of?
A neuropsychological evaluation involves the administration of standardized tests designed to measure a broad range of mental functions, including memory, attention, intelligence, language, thinking, reasoning, problem solving, planning, visual processing, motor speed, dexterity, and emotional status.
Some of these tests require speaking, remembering information, reading, writing, drawing, or manipulating blocks or other test material. These tests are administered face-to-face in an office on an outpatient basis, but they can also be administered in a hospital, skilled nursing facility, or other setting as needed.
In addition to the testing, interviews will be conducted to gather personal and medical histories, and explore a person's understanding of their problems or challenges.
Interviews with family members, caregivers, or individuals associated with the subject can also be helpful, but are not required. To the extent they are available, a review of pertinent records is helpful in establishing histories, including those that pertain to a person's medical, psychological, academic, and employment. Information gained in the evaluation process is compiled into a 10 to 20 page report that includes history, test results, opinions, and clinical, employment, academic and life care planning recommendations.
- Who administers a neuropsychological evaluation?
A neuropsychological evaluation is usually administered by a psychometrician—a clinician with training and experience in the administration and scoring of standardized tests. A clinical neuropsychologist, who is also a licensed psychologist, conducts clinical interviews, reviews records, interprets standardized tests, and generates a report that describes clinical observations, test findings, diagnosis, and recommendations.
Although any psychologist can administer neuropsychological tests, the proper interpretation of a neuropsychological evaluation should only be conducted by a neuropsychologist who has training and experience that meets established criteria by organizations such as the National Academy of Neuropsychology, or Division 40 of the American Psychological Association.
PLCP neuropsychologists have a specialized training in research and clinical assessment associated with brain-behavior relationships. They possess doctoral degrees in clinical neuropsychology and are highly experienced clinical neuropsychological practitioners.
- How does a neuropsychological evaluation differ from neuroimaging?
A neuropsychological evaluation measures a person's mental functioning and capacity through the administration of tests.
Neuroimaging reveals structures, and in some cases, physiological functioning of the brain and its surroundings.
Neuropsychological evaluations do not measure the brain itself, but are designed to measure many of its complex functions, such as memory and thinking.
Results from neuropsychological evaluations can be correlated with neuroimaging findings, such as a left temporal lobe stroke on a CT or MRI of the brain resulting in language and verbal memory deficits on neuropsychological testing. As such, neuropsychological evaluations can be used to explore, confirm, and describe the effects of neuroimaging observations on a person's ability to function in everyday activities.
- Should I get a neuropsychological evaluation if neuroimaging has been/will be performed?
Yes. Although neuroimaging can reveal a specific change in brain structure or function, a neuropsychological evaluation determines how these changes will affect a person's ability to function in everyday life.
Specific findings on an MRI scan can produce a broad range of functional or behavioral changes in specific individuals based on factors such as lesion type, lesion size, personal, educational, and occupational history, or other secondary variables such as medical or psychiatric history.
Neuropsychological evaluations are strongly recommended in cases in which individuals who are experiencing changes in functioning but have normal neuroimaging studies, since many conditions, such as concussion or mild traumatic brain injury, can produce substantial changes in cognitive, behavioral, or emotional functioning in the absence of major structural changes on an MRI or CT scan.
- How does a neuropsychological evaluation differ from a psychological evaluation?
Neuropsychological evaluations are similar to psychological evaluations, in that both involve the administration of standardized tests, clinical interviews, record reviews, etc.
Neuropsychological evaluations, however, involve the administration and interpretation of specific tests that are designed to evaluate complex cognitive functions, such as memory and reasoning, and correlate these with scientific neurological findings/history.
- Should I get a neuropsychological evaluation if a psychological evaluation has been/will be performed?
A neuropsychological evaluation should be performed in cases when a psychological evaluation has indicated there are cognitive and behavioral issues which should be explored through detailed assessment, or when there are concerns about a history of neurological or neuropsychological involvement, such as a history of head trauma, stroke, exposure to toxins, medical problems, or an acquired change in functioning.
- How long does a neuropsychological evaluation take to complete?
A typical neuropsychological evaluation involves about 6 to 8 hours of face-to-face testing, and 1 - 2 hours of clinical interview. This can be accomplished in one session or can be divided into several sessions. Session length can be based on the individual's ability to sit, sustain attention, or manage fatigue. After testing is complete, it takes about 10 business days evaluate results and produce a neuropsychological evaluation report.
- At what age can a neuropsychological evaluation be administered?
Neuropsychological evaluations can be conducted with individuals of any age. Most valid standardized tests exhibit useful reliability beginning from ages 4 – lifespan.
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