Neuropsychological testing refers to a number of tests that trained Psychologists use to get information about how your brain works. They look at the results to better understand the relationship between your brain health and behavior, and mood and thinking (cognition). These tests can help with the following:
- Determine a diagnosis. The trained Psychologist may use your neuropsychological test results to help understand the cause of your issues with thinking and understanding. For example, let’s say you’re having difficulties with memory. Your results might help the trained Psychologist distinguish between normal changes from aging, a neurological illness, depression, anxiety or other causes.
- Identify strengths and weaknesses in your thinking processes (cognition). Sometimes, the trained Psychologist may order tests if you’ve had a neurological injury, like a stroke or traumatic brain injury. They may also test you to get a baseline, for instance, if you play contact sports or have a family history of dementia. This way, your healthcare team can compare future test results to help understand how you’re doing. They may also use baseline results to see whether a treatment is helping you.
- Understand your personal risk for changes in your ability to think that can occur with certain brain surgeries.
- Develop plans for future treatment and interventions like occupational or speech therapy. The trained Psychologist can use test results to decide the focus of rehab or which strengths might be able to compensate for weaknesses. They may also use neuropsychological test results to recommend adjustments to school or work schedules or to determine which skills are most important to you to work on.
In a neuropsychological evaluation, the trained Psychologist tests your mental functions, which may include:
- General intellect.
- IQ level.
- Reading comprehension.
- Your ability to use language and understand what others say.
- How much time it takes you to receive, understand and respond to information (processing speed).
- Learning and memory.
- Higher-level skills you use to organize and plan, manage your time, problem solve, multitask, make judgments and maintain self-control (executive functions).
- Your ability to understand the relationships between objects and space (visuospatial skills). This includes things like drawing, tying shoes, making a bed, etc.
- Fine motor skills.
- Mood and personality.
Neuropsychological testing doesn’t diagnose a condition directly. But it can give your healthcare providers more information to help them diagnose and manage conditions like:
- Learning disabilities
- IQ level
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Traumatic brain injury
- Parkinson’s disease and other movement disorders
- Multiple sclerosis
Healthcare providers, like psychologists and primary care specialists, might want neuropsychological testing if they notice trends or changes such as:
- An unexplained change in personality, like an increase in anxiety or depression, the development of delusions or hallucinations.
- Changes in short-term memory, like asking the same question over and over.
- Difficulty communicating or interacting with others.
- Difficulty speaking or finding words.
- Difficulty drawing or using a map.
- Frequently losing items or getting lost easily.
- New difficulty with understanding or managing bills or finances.
- Poor attention and concentration.
- Poor judgment/decision-making.
- Trouble recognizing familiar people, like close family members and friends.
- Trouble staying organized or completing tasks.
The trained Psychologist may ask you to complete surveys about your mood and psychological symptoms before your testing appointment. Or if your child is having neuropsychological testing, their healthcare team will likely ask you to fill out questionnaires about your child’s behavior.
At the appointment, they’ll talk with you so they understand any concerns you and your family members might have about your cognitive (mental) functioning. They’ll also review your medical and psychological history and educational and work background. If a family member comes to the evaluation with you, your provider may also ask for your permission to interview them. And if your child is getting tested, the neuropsychologist will interview you both as appropriate.
This initial groundwork helps your neuropsychologist choose which tests to give you. A trained technician who works under the supervision of a neuropsychologist — a psychometrist — gives you the tests.
You’ll complete several tests for memory, cognition, verbal communication and motor skills. They typically involve:
- Writing or drawing.
- Solving puzzles or answering questions.
- Responding to things presented on a computer.
Most people find some of the tests to be quite easy and others to be difficult. You aren’t expected to get everything right and no one “fails.” The point of the testing is to identify your personal strengths and weaknesses. It’s important to work as hard as possible on all the tests so the results are accurate and helpful.
Finally, the trained Psychologist scores and interprets the results.
What is a psychological evaluation?
A psychological evaluation allows the psychologist to assess symptoms, to determine a diagnosis, and to provide recommendations for treatment. It can be initiated by the patient, or by a referral from a specialist already treating the patient. A psychological evaluation includes a clinical interview session, sessions for administration of tests and assessments, and a session to discuss findings.
What is the purpose of an evaluation?
A psychological evaluation can be recommended for many purposes, including determining eligibility for a gifted school program, as a pre-assessment for bariatric surgery or pain management devices, assessing intellectual ability, identifying a learning disorder, and diagnosing an Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder or Autism Spectrum Disorder.
A neuropsychological evaluation is a comprehensive type of psychological evaluation that involves the administration of tests of cognitive, motor, and perceptual skills to assess brain function. A neuropsychological evaluation often measures attention and concentration, learning and memory, reasoning and problem-solving, visual-spatial functions, language and speech ability, sensory-perceptual and motor functions, academic skills, and emotional functioning.
How can the results of a psychological evaluation help me?
Findings of the psychological evaluation allow the psychologist to determine a diagnosis, when information from clinical interview, observations during testing, and other data provided, such as previous evaluation reports, medical records, etc., is considered. Once a diagnosis or diagnoses have been established, recommendations are provided to address the needs identified.
If you or a loved one are considering a neuropsychological testing or a psychological evaluation, contact us at 407-851-5121 to get the help you need today.