What is neuropsychology?

Neuropsychology is a specialty field within psychology that involves the study of behavior to figure out how the brain is working.

What is a neuropsychological examination?

A neuropsychological evaluation involves measuring a person’s abilities, such as:

  • Reading
  • Speaking and understanding what others say
  • Attention/concentration
  • Memory
  • Reasoning
  • Higher abilities called executive functions, which let us apply our knowledge

Why has a neuropsychological assessment been requested?

  • To help with diagnosis—Test results are sometimes used to help understand the cause of problems with thinking and understanding. For example, test results might be used to determine if someone's cognitive changes are due to normal aging, a neurological illness, or depression or anxiety. Your healthcare provider can then use the results of your neuropsychological examination along with the results of other tests such as brain scans, EEGs, and blood tests to arrive at a diagnosis that will help to guide your healthcare.
  • To determine cognitive strengths and weaknesses—In some cases, a healthcare provider may order tests for a person who has had a known neurological event or injury, such as a stroke or traumatic brain injury, to find which cognitive functions have changed and how much they have changed.
  • To establish a baseline—In some instances, an examination is performed before and after a medical or surgical treatment to determine if cognitive abilities were affected by the intervention. Re-examination at some point after the baseline can also demonstrate how well an individual is recovering from a stroke or traumatic brain injury and whether or not he or she is ready to return to work, resume driving, or take on some other duty.
  • To help plan a treatment or other intervention—Test results can be used to identify which cognitive abilities should be the focus of rehabilitation when a patient has had a brain injury or help therapists determine which strengths might be able to compensate for weaknesses. The evaluation can provide the basis for making adjustments in school or work programs.

How will you know if my cognitive abilities have changed if I have not had an exam in the past?

Some cognitive abilities tend to be very stable despite neurologic illnesses or injuries. Those abilities often provide an estimate of the level of your other cognitive abilities if no injury or illness had occurred. Your results will be compared to those associated with various illnesses or injuries to help to determine if changes have occurred.