The neuropsychological evaluation is a procedure designed for the comprehensive assessment of cognitive functioning. Standardized tests are administered to study in detail the following areas of functioning: general intellectual ability, attention, memory, language, conceptual reasoning, spatial and perceptual ability, academic skills and sensory-motor ability. A trained neuropsychologist administers the tests. Many people are worried about neuropsychological testing, and are frightened that they may 'fail' the test. There is no way to 'fail' the test. It is simply a test that evaluates various brain functions. The evaluation is a time intensive process, which involves 4-6 hours of testing and a feedback session (typically 30-60 minutes) to discuss the results.
Why would I be referred for a neuropsychological evaluation?
There are many reasons for conducting a neuropsychological evaluation.
1. You may have been diagnosed with a neurological problem and your doctor may want you to have a "baseline" evaluation. This will allow him or her to monitor your level of functioning in case you experience any changes in intellectual abilities, which may be related to your medications or to the diagnosis itself.
2. It is possible that you or someone in your family has noticed a change in your daily functioning. A neuropsychological evaluation can help determine more precisely what the problem might be.
If I already know I have a memory problem, why should I have a neuropsychological evaluation?
You might have the experience that your memory is not as good as it once was. Although this may be your experience, it is still possible that you do not have a "memory problem."
1. You may be experiencing effects of normal aging. In other words, your memory abilities may be normal for your age. The evaluation will help determine if this is the case.
2. It is possible that instead of a true "memory problem," you may have an attention problem. The attention problem may be affecting the way your memory is functioning. This would be important to know, because the treatment for an attention problem is different from treatment for a memory problem. There are other kinds of problems that affect memory as well. A neuropsychological evaluation can help determine the "real" problem.
What if I do have a memory problem? Then what?
1. If you do have a memory problem, the evaluation can help determine what kind of memory problem you have. It is also important to figure out the cause of the problem. For example, some memory problems are related to medications, others are related to seizures, and others may be related to psychological factors such as anxiety. The neuropsychological evaluation is used to help clarify the source of the problem.
2. Depending on the nature of the problem and the results of the evaluation, particular recommendations will be made. These may involve modifications in medications and/or dosages, rehabilitation or "cognitive remediation", different types of counseling or therapy, or, simply, suggestions and strategies to help strengthen particular skills and compensate for relative weaknesses.
What is a feedback session?
This is a brief session that takes place 1-2 weeks after the evaluation. The purpose is to discuss the results of the evaluation, as well as the recommendations made by the neuropsychologist. If you would like, a family member may accompany you. During this session it is very important that you ask questions and mention any concerns you may have. It is important that you understand the information communicated by the neuropsychologist as well as plans for follow-up or treatment.
Who will see the results?
The results of the evaluation are confidential. You may sign a release form requesting that the report be sent to various individuals or institutions. Typically, the results are sent to the doctor who made the referral.