What is Clinical Neuropsychological Testing?
Neuropsychological Testing is a form of specialized psychological assessment that examines the brain’s function. Its purpose is to diagnose and treat cognitive and memory-related problems. A trained neuropsychologist will administer and evaluate a series of thorough tests designed to provide insight into how different areas and systems of the brain are working. These tests will look at various aspects of cognitive and memory functioning, including:
- Intellectual processing
- Ability to reason and problem-solve
- Learning & retaining information
- Attention and concentration
- Language skills
- Visual and spatial reasoning
- Sensory-motor skills
- Mood and personality
The tests will be tailored to your own needs, and the degree to which each area is examined will vary from person-to-person. The results of the neuropsychological evaluation can be used to identify the causes for change in memory and thinking.
What Happens in Neuropsychological Testing?
A typical neuropsychological evaluation begins with an intake interview, in which you will be asked to describe any symptoms, concerns, and other information that may be helpful for the neuropsychologist to know before testing. Often, the testing session will take place on another day, and will include written tests, problem solving, puzzles, and answering questions. Some portions of the test will be more challenging than others, and normally the assessment takes between three and four hours to complete, for cognitive and memory changes, or five to seven hours for a learning disability evaluation. Once the testing session is done, the neuropsychologist will score the data, evaluate and interpret the results, and write a full report with findings and recommendations. This usually takes a few weeks to complete, after which time you will meet for a final appointment to discuss the results and consider the next steps in treatment.
What Are the Benefits of Clinical Neuropsychological Testing?
Neuropsychological evaluation provides critical information to medical doctors, psychologists, and other health care workers who need to better understand how your brain is functioning. By identifying personal limitations, testing can help doctors and psychologists discern whether or not you might be suffering from a neurological disorder. Testing is thorough and can detect memory and cognitive problems that might not otherwise be apparent. Assessment can be especially beneficial to persons experiencing changes in memory or cognition. Tests are designed to determine whether these changes signal a deeper problem, and what that problem might be. In other words, neuropsychological examinations can help differentiate between conditions and identify the specific cause of cognitive and memory related problems. As well as helping doctors discern a person’s current cognitive and memory function, testing can also discern a person’s personality and coping style, and may help doctors differentiate between medical conditions, normal age-related changes, stress, and mood.
The results of neuropsychological testing can enable you to better understand yourself and your condition, and can be used by doctors and psychologists to guide treatment plans. As well as revealing limitations, testing will shed light on your strengths and abilities; therefore, neuropsychological assessment can empower you to use your own gifts to overcome weaknesses. Ultimately, testing is for the purpose of guiding treatment plans and supporting your health and wellbeing.
Should I Be Tested?
People may seek a neuropsychological evaluation for various reasons. You may be referred for testing by a physician who needs more information to determine how your brain is functioning. A problem can be signaled by changes in attention, memory, language, reasoning, organization, perception, or personality. If your doctor believes these symptoms could indicate a serious problem, he or she may wish for you to get tested. Sometimes people undergo neuropsychological evaluation to help determine whether or not they have a learning disorder and/or ADHD. At other times, people have medical conditions that have the potential for impacting an individual’s cognitive and memory function, and testing is used to monitor a person’s condition. Some examples of this may include Multiple Sclerosis, immune disorders, stroke, Huntington’s, Parkinson’s, or traumatic brain injury. Whatever your reason for getting tested, the assessment will help you and your health care providers understand your brain functioning and determine treatment plans for particular issues.
What Else Should I Know?
For more information about neuropsychological testing at Seattle Christian Counseling, please do not hesitate to contact our specialist, Dr. Julie Stroemel, PsyD. Julie has years of training and experience performing neuropsychological evaluations, and she is happy to answer any questions you may have regarding the assessment process.