Neuropsychology is the study of brain-behavior relationships. It is a sub-specialty for psychology, that requires an additional two years of training and specialization in neuropsychology. Neuropsychologists are trained to administer cognitive assessments to a wide range of concerns, including dementia assessments, tracking individuals over time for educational/developmental concerns (such as learning disorders, ADHD, etc.), as well as tracking progress post-injury, such as stroke or brain injury. Cognitive assessments typically include an interview and battery of standardized tests to assess different aspects of ones’ functioning, or a “snap shot” of how the brain is working. Tests include aspects of attention, processing speed, learning and memory, and executive functioning. Assessment of mood and personality is also commonly assessed to provide a more holistic picture of an individual’s functioning. Also, information is routinely gathered from family/caregivers, for additional information gathering purposes.
The first neuropsychological evaluation provides a baseline from which to track an individual’s cognition and functioning over time, which allows for a more precise comparison of change over time.
The actual evaluation varies and depends on the referral question and the needs of the patient/client. Therefore, no two assessments look identical, and the evaluation is flexible, meaning that part of my job is to flexibly tailor the assessment to what is best for the patient even after the evaluation has begun. Typically, assessments last between 2-6 hours, and depend on the nature of the referral question and patient needs. After the assessment has finished, a patient’s scores are compared to standardized norms, which are based on demographics such as age, education, gender, and/or ethnicity. This allows us to see how an individual’s scores compare to their peers, to determine whether this is an area of strength or weakness. A comprehensive report is written summarizing information gathered in the medical record, interview, test data, and questionnaires, and made available to the patient and provider. The report also provides possible diagnoses, if appropriate, as well as makes hypotheses as to the underlying causes of cognitive/functional deficits, and provides individually tailored recommendations based on findings. A feedback session is scheduled after the report has been written to allow the patient and family members a chance to discuss results and recommendations.