A neuropsychological evaluation is a test to measure how well a person's brain is working. The abilities tested include reading, language usage, attention, learning, processing speed, reasoning, remembering, problem-solving, mood and personality and more.
Neuropsychology is a specialty field that joins the medical fields of neurology, psychology and psychiatry. Neuropsychology involves determining how well the brain is working when it is disrupted by a brain injury or psychological disorder. A neuropsychological assessment is a comprehensive test of a wide range of mental functions including behavior.
Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy
If you are undergoing a neuropsychological assessment, the mental functions tested include:
A neuropsychological assessment can be requested for a number of reasons including:
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 the pattern of results associated with various illnesses or injuries to help determine if changes have occurred.
See your healthcare professional for a referral for a neuropsychological assessment if you or a loved one show any of the following signs:
The neuropsychologist will talk with you to understand any concerns you and your family members might have about your cognitive (mental) functioning. He or she will also review your medical and psychological history and educational background. If a family member comes to the evaluation with you, the neuropsychologist may ask for your permission to interview him or her as well.
Your neuropsychologist will choose the tests that you are given. The tests are given and scored by a trained technician called a psychometrist who works under the supervision of the neuropsychologist. The tests typically involve writing or drawing, solving puzzles or answering questions, and responding to things presented on a computer. Most people find some of the tests to be quite easy and others to be difficult. It is important to work as hard as possible on all of the tests in order for the results to be most informative.
You will also complete questionnaires about mood and psychological symptoms. Parents of children referred for neuropsychological examinations often complete questionnaires about their child’s behavior.
Finally, the neuropsychologist writes a report that summarizes the results and includes recommendations for improving cognition (e.g., attention, memory) and possibly referrals to other professionals.
The length of time for testing varies considerably based on the nature of the reason for the examination. Depending on the situation, testing can take anywhere between one and eight hours, although two to four hours is typical. The testing time depends on which tests need to be administered and how quickly you are able to work comfortably. You will be allowed to take some breaks depending on how you are feeling and the length of the test.
Most of the tests used in neuropsychology are standardized, which means they are given the same way to everybody. The tests are also norm-referenced, which means that a patient’s performance on those tests will be compared to the performance of other people who are about the same age and, sometimes, people who have the same educational background. The test results are used to answer many types of questions.
Many neurologic conditions can result in changes in cognitive function. Some include:
Many non-neurologic conditions and their treatments can also effect cognitive function, particularly when they are advanced or severe. Some include diseases of the liver, kidneys, heart, lungs, digestive system, and endocrine systems, as well as some cancers.
Insurance coverage varies greatly, depending on individual insurance plans. Some portion of the assessment is usually covered. If you have any concerns about insurance coverage, please check with your insurance company. If you want to check with your insurance company before the evaluation, you will need to let them know the following CPT (procedure) codes:
Typically, your family physician or medical specialist will refer you to a neuropsychologist.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 10/15/2020.
Learn more about our editorial process.