Neuropsychology is a specialty within the field of Psychology that focus on brain functioning. Clinical Neuropsychologists have had advanced training in the relationships between our brain and our thoughts, feelings, and behavior. They use standardized and objective tests to evaluate cognitive skills (also called thinking skills), including attention, memory, language, spatial relations, and problem solving. The evaluation also involves assessment of emotional status to help determine the role mood factors play in affecting one’s thinking. This very detailed assessment guides important health care decisions by providing information to a patient’s physician or health care team for accurate diagnosis and thorough treatment planning.
Patients who have been referred for a Neuropsychological Evaluation by one of their treating physicians have typically reported or demonstrated a symptom involving memory or another area of thinking. This may be triggered by forgetfulness, problems of organization, poor reasoning or judgment, or a decline in an area of daily living (such as management of medications or finances.) A Neuropsychological Evaluation differs from a Psychological Evaluation. Typically, a Psychological Evaluation is specific to issues related to social-emotional issues and/or attentional processing. A Neuropsychological Evaluation generally includes these areas but also encompasses a wide range of other brain functions.
Physicians who may refer their patients for Neuropsychological Assessment include but are not limited to Primary Care Physicians, Neurologists, Neurosurgeons, Neuro- Ophthalmologists, Rheumatologists, Physiatrist, Pain Specialists, and Psychiatrists. Patients may have been previously diagnosed with a Concussion, Traumatic Brain Injury, Stroke, Tumor, Aneurysm, Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s Disease, or Dementia. Alternatively, the patient may be referred to help differentiate normal aging from a Mild Cognitive Impairment. During the assessment process, a patient’s performance on standardized tests is compared to demographically-related data bases to help determine if the scores are normal for one’s age and educational background. If a change has been detected, relevant recommendations are made to the referring Physician.
When a patient is referred for a Neuropsychological Evaluation, they will usually be seen across three visits. During the first visit, the patient meets with the Neuropsychologist for a detailed clinical interview. It is helpful and highly recommended for the patient to bring a family member or close friend who knows the patient well. Also, the patient should bring a list of medications, photo identification, insurance card(s), and any co-pay or co-insurance. Questions are asked about one’s symptoms, daily living skills, medical history, behavioral health history, family history, educational history, and vocational history. The nature and duration of the upcoming assessment will be discussed at the end of the visit, and the return appointments for the second and third visit will be made before the patient leaves.
During the second visit, the standardized testing is completed with the patient. It is not necessary for family or friends to be present for this second appointment as long as the patient can manage himself/herself independently for up to four hours, including any needed nourishment, medication, or restroom needs. It is important for the patient to take all medications as directed by their treating physicians (unless specifically directed otherwise.) Also, it is important to bring any necessary glasses, magnifiers, hearing aids, amplifying devices, and snacks to this second appointment.
The patient will return for a third visit the week following the assessment. During this third visit, the patient will meet with the Neuropsychologist to thoroughly review the test results and discuss recommendations. It is helpful and highly recommended for the patient to bring a family member or close friend who knows the patient well to this final visit. At the end of the visit, the patient will be provided a copy of the Neuropsychological Evaluation Report. Another copy will be sent to the Physician who referred the patient for testing. Additional copies can be provided to other physicians once a Release of Information form is signed.