Clinical neuropsychology is a specialty area within clinical psychology. Neuropsychologists study how problems with brain functioning affect people's cognitive abilities, emotions, and behavior. Brain injuries and diseases can disrupt concentration, learning and memory, speed of thinking and responding, language, spatial abilities, and problem solving. They can also cause significant emotional changes and changes in how patients interact with other people.
A neuropsychological evaluation is a structured, evidence-based method of investigating these effects of injury and illness. In addition to specialized clinical tests, neuropsychologists use their understanding of normal brain functions, the effects of different brain diseases and injuries, psychiatric disorders, and rehabilitation principles to provide patients with the most accurate diagnoses and treatment recommendations possible.
The Evaluation Process
Most evaluations can be completed in one day. This includes an interview with the new patient, often with his or her family. The purpose of this session is to gain as much information as possible about current symptoms, medical and mental health history, education, work, etc., so as to provide a context within which the patient can be better understood. In some cases, various rating forms are completed during the initial session, which typically lasts about an hour.
We request that patients bring all relevant medical records to their initial session or provide them in advance for review. Examples of relevant records would include physicians' notes, MRI/CT scan reports, EEG reports, and any prior psychological or neuropsychological test reports.
The second portion of the evaluation day is for formal neuropsychological testing. This portion can last for three to five hours, depending upon the nature of the referral. Most tests involve question-and-answer or tabletop work, although a few tests may require limited computer use. Neuropsychological testing is non-invasive and does not involve any physical discomfort. Patients are only required to give a full effort on every test so that a valid score profile may be obtained. Many patients report that they enjoy these challenging mental activities.
The Neuropsychological Report
After the testing is completed and all tests are scored, each patient's unique profile of standardized scores is developed. From these scores, a written report is generated. The report describes and interprets the test findings in detail and includes specific diagnostic impressions and recommendations for treatment. Most patients return after about two weeks for a follow up session, where all of this is discussed in detail.