A neuropsychological evaluation is a comprehensive assessment of a patient’s cognitive functioning. The goal is to discover what is causing a patient’s cognitive impairment, as well as behavioral and/or emotional implications. This discovery is based on the structure and functionality of the brain, in which a neuropsychologist is extensively trained. Although the same measures are administered to all patients, the approach to final evaluation is highly personalized.
Why Is It Significant?
Neuropsychological evaluation is the most accurate standard to reveal changes in neurocognitive functions. This helps identify variables of cognitive dysfunction that other forms of medical testing often cannot. The extent literature has supported these assessments to be instrumental in helping identify and assist in the treatment of patients with dementia, TBI, MCI, epilepsy, Parkinson’s and other well-known disorders.
Understanding cognitive operation can help reveal the impact a traumatic brain injury or other neurological disorder has on a patient’s functional status. There are several benefits to the outcome of neuropsychological evaluations, but a few highlights are:
- Determining the cause of a patient’s behavioral changes
- Predicting how the behavioral changes will progress
- Determining whether or not a neurosurgical procedure is needed (i.e. DBS)
- Providing a comparison for medical treatment or further psychological assessment
What Can Patients Expect?
A neuropsychological evaluation consists of standardized measures designed to assess cognitive functions, motor skills and emotional awareness. Once the initial patient and informant interviews have been completed, the patient will be asked to answer questions and perform various tasks in a test taking format. Behavioral observations will be noted, as appropriate, throughout the assessment process.
Patients are scored based on a comparison to other healthy individuals in their age bracket and other normative variables. The following areas are assessed by a neuropsychologist:
- Executive Functions
- Problem Solving
- Quality of Life
- Sensorimotor Functions
Evaluations can last anywhere from two to eight hours, spread over one or two sessions, depending on the individual’s unique situation.
Additional Patient Information
The best way to prepare for a neuropsychological evaluation is to get plenty of rest the night before and be open to the process. If possible, patients should bring a list of all current medications and doses, any pertinent medical records, and a friend or family member for support during the clinical interview.