What is a neuropsychological evaluation?
Neuropsychology, as a field, focuses on brain-behavior relationships. A neuropsychological evaluation is a comprehensive examination to clarify what may be causing an individual’s thinking or functioning difficulties. The evaluation begins with an interview in which the patient describes their current difficulties as well as their personal background and history. Information such as medical, social, and educational history is examined closely. The patient then completes standardized measures of different cognitive abilities (e.g., memory, attention) and their performance is compared to the typical performance of someone with a similar age, gender, and cultural background. In this way, a person’s thinking abilities can be estimated and measured on a standardized basis. A report is written considering all the information collected to provide diagnostic and treatment information to the patient. The final portion of the evaluation is a separate meeting (usually two weeks later) where the findings are discussed and treatment recommendations are provided.
What is measured during the evaluation?
Every evaluation varies depending on the reason and the specific difficulties of the individual. Measurements may take the form of questionnaires, paper and pencil testing, and/or computerized testing. Neuropsychological evaluations common measure abilities such as:
- Learning, retention, and retrieval of information (memory)
- Attention and concentration
- Thinking speed (processing speed)
- Higher order thinking (executive functioning)
- Personality and mood factors
- Motivation to perform well
When may a neuropsychological evaluation be helpful?
- To evaluate for ADHD (ADHS)
- To evaluate for cognitive changes after a head injury or concussion
- To establish, or refute, impairment of cognitive functions
- To provide treatment recommendations and diagnostic clarity
- To document a patient history and status to aid other medical or mental health providers
- To track cognitive functioning over time (i.e., repeat measurements) when changes due to medical condition are anticipated (ex. Alzheimer’s disease)
- To diagnose and document learning problems
- To support an application to government entities (ex. disability application)
Please note that evaluations are currently only offered to English speaking adults.
Christopher Malone Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)
William James College
Newton, MA, USA