A neuropsychological evaluation is a comprehensive diagnostic assessment of a person's cognitive, physical, emotional and behavioral functioning. A neurologist, neurosurgeon, trauma surgeon, primary care physician or other medical doctor or their assistant may request a neuropsychological evaluation as a diagnostic aid to obtain information about a person's brain functioning. A neuropsychological evaluation is often recommended when symptoms or conditions include:
- Changes in attention, focus, or concentration.
- A gradual loss of memory or recall that aren't consistent with normal aging.
- Suspected or confirmed changes in thinking or emotions after a traumatic injury to the head or brain.
- Abrupt or progressive changes in emotions or personality without a clear reason.
- Non-traumatic medical disorders, such as: strokes, tumors, seizures, multiple sclerosis, encephalitis, meningitis, etc. that affect thinking, feelings or behavior.
- Possible signs of abnormal aging or dementia.
- Complex brain conditions such as concussions from an athletic injury, attention deficit disorder, learning disabilities, failure in school, etc.
A neuropsychological assessment consists of three stages: initial consultation, neuropsychological testing, and review of test findings.
- The initial consultation is a one hour appointment with the doctor during which information is gathered about a person's concerns or difficulties and medical background and history. A clinical examination is then conducted and the findings are used to determine what specific tests will be used to answer the referring questions from the patient's doctor. A family member is encouraged to attend this appointment to help provide information about the patient.
- Neuropsychological testing is based on the patient's concerns as well as those of their referring physician and the information gathered during the initial consultation. It is typically completed in 3-6 hours and may be completed in one-full day or two-half day sessions based on the patient's schedule demands and energy level. All tests are individually administered and designed to provide detailed information about how a person's brain works. Many tests are "hands on" and require assembling, sorting, organizing, etc. A typical evaluation involves assessment of:
- Intellectual abilities
- Attention and concentration
- Higher level reasoning
- Problem solving
- Language abilities
- Visual-spatial skills
- Motor functioning
- Sensory skills
- Emotionality and personality functioning
- The review consists of a forty-five minute appointment in which the doctor reviews the diagnostic test results with the patient and/or a family member. This appointment allows an opportunity for further questions and to discuss the implications of the assessment that includes any ongoing concerns as well as future directions and recommendations.