Neuropsychological testing measures how well a person’s brain is functioning. During a neuropsychological evaluation, your clinical neuropsychologist will test various abilities, including language, learning, reasoning, and problem-solving, to assess your cognitive functioning.
If you experience a noticeable change in your cognitive function or memory, or you’re experiencing mild cognitive impairment, neuropsychological tests can help identify the cause of your impairment. Neuropsychological evaluations have many applications, from determining cognitive strengths and weaknesses to detecting cognitive impairment after a traumatic brain injury.
What is neuropsychology?
Neuropsychology involves the study of neurology, psychology, and psychiatry. Specifically, clinical neuropsychology studies how well the brain is working when it is disrupted by a brain injury or psychological disorder.
Neuropsychologists conduct neuropsychological assessments to identify behavioral and cognitive changes resulting from disease or injury, such as Parkinson’s disease or dementia. Some neurologists also focus on mental health changes and other symptoms.
What is a neuropsychological evaluation?
Neuropsychological assessments test a wide range of mental functions, including:
- Reading comprehension
- Language usage and understanding
- Processing speed
- Attention and concentration
- Learning and memory
- Visuospatial skills
- Executive functions
While some evaluations might be self-reports or tests you complete independently, most tests are administered by a neuropsychologist or a trained psychometrist.
An individual’s responses are interpreted by comparing their test results with baseline (i.e., healthy individuals of a similar demographic, age, ethnicity, and level of education) and to expected levels of cognitive functioning. Neuropsychological evaluations can help provide treatment recommendations for adults, adolescents, and children.
Neuropsychological evaluations also include a review of your medical history. For example, if you’ve had a stroke or concussion, you may find it harder to think or talk. Your neuropsychologist will also interview you—or a trusted family member or loved one—to learn more about your symptoms.
What are the neuropsychological tests recommended?
Neuropsychological tests identify patterns of strengths and weaknesses among cognitive function, according to the American Psychological Association. For individuals with Alzheimer’s disease, epilepsy, or other cognitive deficits, an evaluation of these patterns can:
- Assist in a differential diagnosis
- Provide an evaluation of cognition before and after neurological procedures
- Provide a baseline against which future evaluations can be compared
- Reveal areas of daily functioning where the individual may require assistance
- Help clinicians recommend the appropriate treatment
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How do you prepare for a neuropsychological assessment?
Regardless of what type of neuropsychological test you take, there’s no need to study. However, before your test, it’s important to get a good night’s sleep, eat a balanced breakfast, and avoid alcohol.
During your appointment, be sure to tell your neuropsychologist about any medications you take, as well as any previous psychological tests you’ve taken. If you have trouble answering questions about your medical history, neurologic conditions, or cognitive impairment, bring someone along who can help.
Test Results and Follow-Up
After completing your neuropsychological assessment, your neuropsychologist will review your test results and write a report detailing your diagnosis. Depending on your specific diagnosis, your treatment plan might include more medical testing, such as CT or MRI brain scans.
Meanwhile, if you receive a mental health diagnosis like depression, your clinician may provide a referral to a psychologist or counselor to treat symptoms and improve your brain function. Working with a psychologist can help you manage symptoms, learn healthy coping mechanisms, and improve your quality of life.
To find a therapist, reach out to a mental health professional through WithTherapy. We’ll connect you to a clinical psychologist you feel comfortable with, regardless of your personal preferences and requirements. One of our experienced therapists will help you understand your condition, navigate your symptoms, and live a more productive life.