What is the role of the neuropsychologist?
The role of the neuropsychologist is to identify and/or help understand brain-related factors that can impact cognitive and emotional functioning, even when no biological causes are suspected. However, the specific areas assessed depend upon the referral questions and presenting symptoms. An interview with the individual and/or family members is typically included, as well as reviews of medical records as part of the evaluation process.
What is a neuropsychological evaluation?
A neuropsychological evaluation involves the administration of a group of specialized tests that provide descriptive, quantitative information about areas of cognition such as intellectual functioning, problem solving, language, visuospatial abilities, attention, memory and personality functioning. Impairment in these functions may exist because of brain abnormalities that cannot be detected on CT or MRI scans. Therefore, it is only through neuropsychological evaluation that we are able to determine what impact a disease process is having on a patient’s cognitive functioning (i.e., thinking) and ability to carry out everyday tasks.
What is the purpose of a neuropsychological evaluation?
A neuropsychological evaluation is used to obtain several types of information. Reasons people are referred for a neuropsychological evaluation may include, among others:
- To evaluate known or suspected problems with brain functioning,
- To help establish or clarify a diagnosis,
- To define brain-related (cognitive) strengths and weaknesses,
- To guide treatment for personal, educational or vocational needs, and make relevant recommendations to your other healthcare provider(s), or
- To document possible changes in cognitive functioning over time.
What populations are appropriate?
Anyone with a known or suspected cerebral disorder where there are questions about general or specific cognitive deficits and strengths, level of intellectual functioning, type and degree of memory disorder, focal cerebral dysfunction, and/or changes over time. Assistance in many differential diagnostic situations is also offered. Some of the more common referral populations include:
- Head injury
- Multiple sclerosis
- Parkinson’s disease
- Mood disorders
- Learning disability
Other uses of neuropsychological evaluations:
- Pre-post surgical intervention cases where cognition may be affected
- Assessment of medication effects on cognitive functioning
- Recommendations regarding rehabilitation/intervention strategies
- Evaluation of minor or suspected head injury effects on cognition
- Differential diagnosis of dementing illnesses
- Assessment of recovery of function following a neurological event
- Assessment of rate of decline in progressive conditions
- Characterize personality structure/interpersonal/emotional functioning
- Assist with placement planning, independent living capacity
- Forensic assessments
- Neurobehavioral research using qualitative and quantitative performance indices
- Disability determination