neuropsychological evaluation

What is a Neuropsychological Evaluation and its Purpose?

What Happens During a Neuropsychological Evaluation?

 

What is a Neuropsychological Evaluation and its Purpose?

neuropsychological evaluation

 

Introduction

Neuropsychology sounds like a heavy word. So, let’s break it down to make it easier to understand. Neuro means having to do with the nerves or the nervous system. 

Psychology refers to the study of the human mind and behavior. So, neuropsychology is a specialized branch of psychology that governs the interrelationship between the nervous system and human behavior.

On the other hand, neuropsychological evaluation refers to a test that assesses neuropsychological health. It explains how well someone performs cognitively and covers aspects like memory, problem-solving, and personality. 

Diagnosing if executive functions are working properly is also one of the major purposes of the neuropsychological evaluation. 

There can be many situations in which an individual warrants a neuropsychological evaluation. However, it is natural to wonder how professionals conduct this test in the first place. 

What happens in a neuropsychological evaluation?

A neuropsychological evaluation or assessment includes assessing whether the patient brain is functioning as expected. Since it is a standardized test, results depend on comparison with others. 

The examiner compares the score to individuals considered to have healthy cognitive functions. Typically, the test has questions on traditional mediums like pen and paper or electronically. 

A neuropsychologist needs to administer the test because they can compare previous cognitive strength and weakness patterns with the test results. They also review prior medical records, which can also include educational history.

An interview also takes place to observe the individual’s mental and behavioral capabilities. At times, interviews with family members may also take place.

They divide the scores into standard and abnormal. A bell curve helps differentiate between the results that fall into these categories.

Purpose of Neuropsychological Evaluation

neuropsychological evaluation

With the help of neuropsychological evaluation, it can also determine underlying psychological or neurological disorders that may lead to difficulties in cognitive abilities.

The human brain has many cognitive functions. Individually and collectively, they have an impact on mental and behavioral patterns. 

So to assess each function of the brain, a neuropsychological evaluation consists of many tests. Evaluating them is necessary since many neurons in the human brain interconnect cognitive processes. 

These assessments test the following abilities of the brain:

  • Intelligence
  • Memory
  • Perception
  • Language
  • Processing
  • Reasoning
  • Problem-solving
  • Self-control 
  • Multi-tasking skills
  • Sensory-motor functions
  • Moods
  • Emotions
  • Personality changes
  • Organization skills

 

According to Dr. Elena Ostroy, Ph.D., ABN (Board Certified Neuropsychologist), here are some common concerns that can be addressed by a neuropsychological evaluation:

  • Behavioral challenges at school or home 
    Does your child get out of their seat, stare into space, blurt out the answers, often make careless mistakes, or just does not seem to be paying attention?
  • Academic or school-related difficulties 
    Are there challenges in reading, writing, math, or school work in general occurring frequently, perhaps even despite the extra help with the challenging subject(s)?
  • Developmental concerns 
    Are there concerns about the child’s social development?
    Does the child seem to be less interested in other children, have difficulty making friends, or communicating with others?
    Does she or he show unusual or particularly intense interests or attachments?
    Are there concerns about their sensory-motor development?
  • Neurological condition 
    Has your child been diagnosed with a neurological condition (e.g., epilepsy, autism, congenital syndrome, lead or other toxic exposure) that is associated with cognitive difficulties?
  • Head injury
    Did you/your child recently experience a concussion/brain injury that appears to be affecting their memory, focus, academic performance, mood or behavior?

 

neuropsychological evaluation

These tests are often taken in quiet environments or remotely to assure accurate results. For any evaluated cognitive dysfunction, they also consider the severity of the problem. 

1. The integrity of cognitive functions

They design each one to test an independent function of the brain. However, observing the test results helps to understand the person’s cognitive strengths and weaknesses. Looking at the parts collectively allows us to determine future changes in mood or other cognitive abilities. 

The evaluation helps in determining daily functioning. Such regular tasks include financial management, time management, studying, and reading, among many others. The assessment aims to clarify which cognitive functions are strong or weak and how they affect the individual’s daily life.

2. Differential diagnosis – to confirm or clarify a diagnosis

The purpose of a differential diagnosis is to assess if any mental or behavioral changes result from any other brain disease. It could also help understand how a person’s behavior changed after a particular neurologic illness.

A confirmed diagnosis could help prevent or assist in treating illnesses such as Parkinson’s disease. It can also help understand any sudden changes due to an underlying condition. 

3. Choosing the right education and treatment plan

Neuropsychological evaluation and treatments may vary from one individual to another. Treatment recommendations are not only dependent on the illnesses or diagnosis. They could be catered to the individual’s needs as well.

Although the test is standardized, the cognitive strength levels can differ from one patient to another. Compared with other tests, a neuropsychological evaluation can give information about brain functioning. It can be before or even after neurosurgical procedures.

For example, depending on which cognitive functions are weak, treatment choices may include pharmacotherapy, occupational therapy, speech-language therapy, and behavioral therapy, among others. A neuropsychological assessment can determine which treatment plan or method could be beneficial in strengthening the weaker functions of the human brain.

Summary

A neuropsychological evaluation can aid in assessing various functions of the brain and uses a standardized system to test the levels of different cognitive strengths. The results determine performance and improve weaknesses at work, school, or home.

A healthy brain is the result of memory, intelligence, perception, attention, and other cognitive functions working well together. A neuropsychological evaluation will uncover an individual’s strengths and weaknesses to determine the best interventions to help the individual succeed in life given their circumstances.

 

 

Want to learn more about what is a neuropsychological evaluation and its purpose? Chat with Themba Tutors Today!
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Craig Selinger, CEO of Themba Tutors (serving Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, Bronx, Westchester, Long Island, New Jersey, and Connecticut), is a NY State licensed speech-language pathologist, executive functioning coach, and learning specialist with over 18 years of experience working professionally with over a thousand families. His expertise includes language-based learning issues, e.g. reading, writing, speaking, and listening, executive functioning, ADHD/ADD, and learning disabilities. Check out his interviews with top-notch professionals in the field on Spotify.
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