What is Clinical Neuropsychology?
Clinical neuropsychology is a specialty area within the field of psychology that focuses on brain-behavior relationships and brain functioning. In neuropsychology, a licensed psychologist with expertise in the field evaluates brain functions by assessing thinking skills and abilities, then analyzes the results, identifies the diagnoses, and makes recommendations about treatment needs and plans. The neuropsychologist also may offer such treatments to patients, including psychotherapy, cognitive rehabilitation, or behavior management.
Dr. Gordon offers both outpatient psychotherapy and medical consultation services.
What Does a Neuropsychological Assessment Tell You?
Test results can tell you various things about an individual’s situation and conditions, including:
- Baseline – Sometimes, neuropsychological evaluations are performed to document an individual’s skills and abilities to establish a baseline before any symptoms begin. This allows for accurate tracking of anticipated future changes.
- Weaknesses – Neuropsychological testing can help identify any weaknesses in certain areas. It is very effective in discovering mild thinking and memory problems that otherwise may go undetected and/or untreated until they worsen. Testing also may be used to differentiate between issues associated with chronic medical conditions that can affect thinking and memory, such as diabetes, infectious or metabolic diseases, or substance abuse and another neurocognitive disorder.
- Certain illnesses – Evaluations can be useful in distinguishing between certain illnesses, which is important because an accurate diagnosis leads to appropriate treatment. Neuropsychological test results help identify strengths and weaknesses that can be useful in determining which areas of the brain are affected and which illness may be present. For example, neuropsychological tests may reveal whether someone’s symptoms are most likely due to depression, Alzheimer’s disease, or a stroke, which all may present with similar symptoms. Sometimes additional testing, like brain imaging and blood tests conducted by a referring physician, will be reviewed to inform the neuropsychological evaluation and in order to reach the most accurate diagnosis.
- Treatment plan – Results from neuropsychological testing are very helpful in informing and modifying treatment plans across providers so that care plans utilize the individual’s identified strengths and compensate for the identified weaknesses. Test results help identify target issues and which strategies will work best for them. For example, after a stroke or traumatic brain injury, testing can help inform a treatment plan for rehabilitation and the recovery of diminished skills and abilities. The results of your neuropsychological evaluation will allow your doctors and other providers to understand what problems you’re having functioning in your daily life and help guide planning for treatment or specific needs for additional services or assistance.
What is a Neuropsychological Evaluation?
A neuropsychological evaluation for adults is an assessment of brain functions in people over 18 years of age. It assists other treating providers in obtaining information about the functional and structural integrity of the brain and any needs for continued care. Adult neuropsychology evaluations consist of an interview and pencil and paper or computerized assessments. While the patient may complete some tests with help from a technician, at CFNS, almost all tests are administered by a neuropsychologist.
Neuropsychologists have specialized education and training that allows them to select, administer, and analyze tests and methods that provide a comprehensive understanding of the patient’s neuropsychological functioning, strengths, and weaknesses, in the following areas:
- Language and communication
- Learning and memory
- Concentration and attention
- Planning and organizing
- Information processing speed
- Visual perception
- Coordination and motor speed
- Behavioral, emotional, personality, and cognitive functioning
What Happens at a Neuropsychological Evaluation?
During a neuropsychological evaluation, you will be interviewed about your medical history, symptoms, medications, and other relevant factors. Then, you will take the tests your neuropsychologist determines are appropriate for your symptoms and situation. Typically, several hours are needed for testing. Some of the assessment tasks will seem easy, while others are more complicated and may seem overwhelming at times. It’s important that you rest well before your evaluation, be sure to bring any hearing aids and/or glasses (if you use them) with you to the appointment, and try your best at everything asked of you.
Why Would Neuropsychological Testing Be Needed?
Other doctors or medical professionals typically request neuropsychological evaluations to help determine how different systems and areas of the brain are functioning and affect your daily living. Often, testing is recommended when there is reason to believe an individual has a loss or change in thinking or functioning due to reports or observations of changes in language, concentration, reasoning, perception, coordination, organization, personality, or mood. Various medical, psychological, neurological, or genetic issues may cause such changes, so a thorough neuropsychological evaluation will help those doctors and medical professionals determine a patient’s specific conditions and needs using objective data and in ways other specialities are unable to do.