Neuropsychological assessment is an approach to testing based on an appreciation of functional neuroanatomy and brain development. Unlike CT or MRI scans, which show how the structure of the brain looks, neuropsychological testing examines how well the brain is working when it performs certain tasks (i.e., learning new information, memory, problem solving). A neuropsychologist is a licensed psychologist with specialized training that includes education in brain anatomy, brain function, and brain injury or disease.
What is assessed in a neuropsychological evaluation?
A neuropsychological evaluation includes a thorough clinical history, behavioral observations, information gathered from collateral contacts and testing in the following areas:
- Overall cognitive functioning
- Visual-spatial functions
- Sensory-perceptual functions
- Academic skills
- Planning and organization
- Working Memory
- Visual scanning
- Problem solving and conceptualization
- Language functions
- Motor functioning
- Memory and learning
- Emotions, behavior, and personality
- Processing Speed
- Attention and concentration
- Executive functioning
- Auditory and visual processing
What can be gained from having a neuropsychological evaluation?
The product or outcome of a neuropsychological evaluation provides information about the individual’s functioning. It includes specific recommendations to guide treatment and to enhance one’s quality of life. There are several ways that test results are used including:
- The test results can be used to confirm or clarify a diagnosis.
- Provide a profile of strengths or weaknesses to guide rehabilitation, educational, vocational, or other services.
- Document changes in functioning since prior examinations, including effects of treatment.
- Document changes following an insult to the brain.
- Result in referrals to other specialists, such as educational therapists, neurologists, psychiatrists, vocational counselors, rehabilitation therapy, speech and language therapists, special education teachers, or counseling therapists.
- Development of a comprehensive treatment plan that includes evidence-based remedial interventions.
When should a neuropsychological assessment be considered?
- When there is a history of professional, educational, developmental, neurological, or medical difficulties that impact one’s behavior, learning, and/or overall functioning.
- When there is a history of known of suspected brain injury.
- When cognitive and/or behavioral problems are exhibited or suspected.
- When there is a history of genetic disorders or neurodevelopmental disorders that may impact on brain development.
- In the context of medical problems such as a seizure disorder, stroke, cerebral palsy, tumors, dementia, and multiple sclerosis.
- When previous evaluations have been conducted, but more in-depth assessment is indicated.
Possible diagnoses that result from a Neuropsychological Assessment are:
- Dyslexia (or Reading Disorder)
- Dyscalculia (or Math Disorder)
- Developmental disorder of scholastic skills
- Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
- Non-Verbal Learning Disorder
- Executive Dysregulation
- Post Concussion Syndrome (especially Sport Concussion)
- Dysgraphia (Deficit in the ability to write)
- Developmental Coordination Disorder
- Autism Spectrum Disorder
- Language Disorder
- Sensory Integration Disorder
- Intellectual Disability
- Global Developmental Delay
- Cognitive impairments related to substance abuse
- Cognitive impairments related to medical conditions, medical treatments or post-surgical
- Neurocognitive disorder
- Developmental disorder
- Social (Pragmatic) Communication Disorder