What is a neuropsychological evaluation?
It usually involves assessment (testing) with a group of standardized tests that are sensitive to the effects of brain dysfunction. Neuropsychological assessment is used to show the ways in which a person can or cannot perform certain functions or tasks that are dependent upon brain activity. These (for example, attention, memory and learning) are often necessary for successful living. Impairment in many of these functions may exist because of brain abnormalities that cannot be detected on CT or MRI scans. Therefore, neuropsychological assessment is a procedure with a unique purpose; it can be used to reveal or diagnose brain dysfunction when no structural brain abnormalities can be seen. Furthermore, when structural abnormalities have been found, neuropsychological assessment provides a way to determine
what functions may be impaired because of the structural defects, and to determine the degree to which they may be impaired.
What tests are used?
The standardized tests used in a neuropsychological evaluation typically assess functioning in the following areas: attention and memory, problem-solving and other complex abilities, visual-spatial functions, language functions, sensoryperceptual functions, and motor functions. Assessment of academic skill development and emotional - social functioning, while not exclusive to neuropsychological evaluation, is typically performed, as well. The perspective of the neuropsychologist is frequently requested to understand subtle brain-related factors involved in academic failure or impaired emotional functioning, even when no biological causes are suspected. However, the specific areas assessed depend upon the referral questions presented. An interview with the individual and/or family members is typically included. Observations in other settings, such as school or hospital, and review of school/medical records also may be included in the evaluation process.
What are some of the uses of neuropsychological testing?
A neuropsychological evaluation is used to obtain several types of information. Reasons a client is referred may include, among others: 1) to find possible problems with brain functioning, 2) to help lead to a diagnosis, 3) to define brain-related strengths and weaknesses, 4) to guide treatment for personal, educational or vocational needs, and make relevant recommendations to other provider(s), or 5) to document possible changes in one’s functioning over time. The evaluation can be useful in a number of different situations and can serve many purposes, including but not limited to:
In the clinical arena:
- Differential diagnosis
- Assessing for co morbidities
- Evaluating for complicating cognitive factors in a patient’s case
- Evaluating for complicating psychological factors in a patient’s case
- Evaluate progress
- Recommendations for treatment
- Identifying a student’s strengths and weaknesses
- Assessing factors that may interfere with learning
- Recommending intervention strategies based on the student’s unique profile
In the legal / forensic area:
- Competency evaluations
- Assessing for factors that may have influenced a client’s judgment
- Evaluate the effect an incident or injury has had on a client’s functioning.
- Evaluate for malingering
In the business arena:
- Fitness for duty
- Disability evaluation
- Assessing an applicant’s strengths and weaknesses
- Assessing an applicant’s fit for a specific position
Off course, a number of these areas can overlap.
What is the Outcome?
The product or outcome of a neuropsychological evaluation is a conclusion or set of conclusions made about the individual's functioning. If requested, the product also may include specific recommendations to guide treatment or otherwise enhance the individual's functioning. The conclusions and recommendations are developed by integrating information obtained from the standardized testing, interviews, records and other observations. Interpretation of the test results and the information obtained from other sources is performed by the neuropsychologist, who is a licensed professional within the field of psychology with a specialty in the applied science of brain-behavior relationships.
What should a client know before their evaluation?
Normally, the first meeting is for the purpose of an interview and gathering history. The client needs to bring a history questionnaire s/he was mailed, as well as any additional information they have, such as results of prior testing. For the testing itself, which in most cases is scheduled over 2-4 meetings in 2-3 hour blocks of time, the client needs to bring glasses and hearing aid, if any. Also, clients are encouraged to get a good night sleep the night prior to testing and to make sure they ate that day. They will be provided with a break, and are encouraged to bring a snack with them.
Some of this information was obtained from the National Academy of Neuropsychology website.
Laguna Behavioral offers the following testing for ages 6 years old and over:
- TOVA Test for ADHD/ADD
- Learning Disabilities
- Autism Spectrum
- Post Head-Trauma