Neuropsychological testing measures how well your brain works. It tests for a range of mental functions, like reading, language use, attention, learning, processing speed, reasoning, remembering and problem-solving, as well as mood and behavior.
Neuropsychological testing refers to a number of tests that healthcare providers use to get information about how your brain works. Specially trained psychologists — neuropsychologists — look at the results to better understand the relationship between your brain health and behavior, and mood and thinking (cognition). These tests can help healthcare providers:
In a neuropsychological evaluation, your provider tests your mental functions, which may include:
Neuropsychological testing doesn’t diagnose a condition directly. But it can give your healthcare providers more information to help them diagnose and manage conditions like:
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Your neuropsychologist may ask you to complete surveys about your mood and psychological symptoms before your testing appointment. Or if your child is having neuropsychological testing, their healthcare team will likely ask you to fill out questionnaires about your child’s behavior.
At the appointment, they’ll talk with you so they understand any concerns you and your family members might have about your cognitive (mental) functioning. They’ll also review your medical and psychological history and educational and work background. If a family member comes to the evaluation with you, your provider may also ask for your permission to interview them. And if your child is getting tested, the neuropsychologist will interview you both as appropriate.
This initial groundwork helps your neuropsychologist choose which tests to give you. A trained technician who works under the supervision of a neuropsychologist — a psychometrist — gives you the tests.
You’ll complete several tests for memory, cognition, verbal communication and motor skills. They typically involve:
Most people find some of the tests to be quite easy and others to be difficult. You aren’t expected to get everything right and no one “fails.” The point of the testing is to identify your personal strengths and weaknesses. It’s important to work as hard as possible on all the tests so the results are accurate and helpful.
Finally, your healthcare team scores and interprets the results.
You’ll want to function at your best to get the most accurate results. To do this:
There aren’t really any risks related to neuropsychological tests. But the testing often takes several hours. This can lead some people to feel tired, over-stimulated and agitated. Be sure to plan an easy dinner for the evening of the test. If your child is getting tested, don’t expect much from them for the rest of the day (and be gentle with yourself, too).
Most of the tests are given the same way to everyone (standardized). Your neuropsychologist will compare your results with those of others who are the same age, and sometimes, with people who have the same educational background (norm-referenced).
Your neuropsychologist will write an in-depth report that explains your results. The report identifies both your strengths and any areas where you didn’t perform as expected. It includes recommendations and interventions to improve these skills, and possibly, referrals to other professionals. They won’t give you a diagnosis, but with your permission, they’ll share your results with your healthcare team.
It usually takes a couple of weeks for your neuropsychologist to score the tests, interpret the results and make recommendations. During this time, try to busy yourself with daily tasks and activities so you don’t worry too much about your results.
There are many different reasons healthcare providers request neuropsychological testing, which assesses a wide range of mental functions. They might want to see how your memory works and if your symptoms are from aging or if there’s something else going on. Or your child’s healthcare team might want more insight into your child’s thinking and behavior to better understand their needs.
Whatever the reason for the testing, it’s normal to worry a bit before you get the results. But wherever you are on your journey to a diagnosis, neuropsychological testing provides unique data to help inform your next steps. Together with your healthcare team, you’ll be closer to any needed interventions and therapies.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 11/21/2023.
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