What Is Neuropsychology?
Neuropsychology is a specialty that combines the fields of neuroscience and psychology and deals with the brain and its relationship to behavior. The brain is the most complex organ of the human body and controls intellectual functioning, speech and language, the perception of touch, hearing, and vision, memory, attention, personality and the coordination of all movement. Because neurological disorders, such as traumatic brain injury or concussion, stroke, brain tumors, epilepsy, Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease or multiple sclerosis, and developmental disorders, such as learning disabilities, dyslexia, Autism Spectrum Disorder, may affect any of these functions, a neuropsychological evaluation is an important part of diagnosis and treatment planning.
A neuropsychological evaluation is a diagnostic testing procedure used to measure the functioning of the brain. This type of evaluation provides information about the brain that is not provided by other diagnostic testing procedures such as a neurological examination, EEG, or brain imaging. Neuropsychological evaluations consist of behavioral tests which measure abilities (i.e., cognitive strengths and weaknesses) and/or symptoms. These procedures are extremely sensitive to the functional variances of specific areas/circuits in the brain. The evaluation systematically examines various brain regions which are important in day-to-day functioning, as well as assists in making a diagnosis and planning treatment.
The standardized measures that may be used are designed to evaluate motor, memory (visual and verbal), sensory-perceptual, language, executive functioning, attention, and intellectual functioning. Another important part of the evaluation is to determine the effects of a person’s neurological and/or medical problems on emotional adjustment and overall quality of life. For students, a psychoeducational evaluation (e.g., reading, arithmetic, and written expression) may be included to assist in planning for appropriate school interventions. The specific areas evaluated depend on the concerns, as well as the age and current level of functioning of the person being evaluated.
WHO SHOULD BE EVALUATED?
A neuropsychological evaluation can be very helpful in establishing a diagnosis for problems that result from changes in mental abilities. For those with a known diagnosis, neuropsychological evaluation can often be the best way to determine the effects of the neurological condition on the individual and to help with treatment or rehabilitation planning. It can also be useful in helping individuals reintegrate back into the work and home setting after injury. Additionally, the evaluation results assist family members by providing information and education about neurological disorders and their management. For those in which the diagnosis is not clear, evaluation can provide a sensitive measure of symptoms to help with diagnosis.
A neuropsychological evaluation can be particularly useful in identifying cognitive strengths and weaknesses in children who are at risk for cognitive problems and/or developmental delays. In addition, children who are not progressing in school and/or have overt attention or behavior problems are good candidates for this type of evaluation.
A neuropsychological evaluation can help determine the type of cognitive problem and make specific treatment recommendations. Concerns that we often address include:
- Traumatic Brain Injury
- Learning Disabilities
- Autism Spectrum Disorders
- Other Neurocognitive Disorders
HOW DOES IT HELP?
A neuropsychological evaluation can be useful in a variety of ways. This type of evaluation identifies a person’s strengths and weaknesses to aid in diagnosis and make specific treatment recommendations. In this way, predictions can be made about what treatments, services, compensatory strategies, or accommodations may be most helpful. This type of evaluation is also useful in “tracking” development and/or cognitive functioning as a condition develops over time or following treatment. In addition, we can help to predict what areas or situations may be more difficult for someone in the future.
Patient and family education is provided when appropriate. Referrals are made for psychotherapy, cognitive rehabilitation, or other interventions as appropriate.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE BOARD CERTIFIED IN NEUROPSYCHOLOGY?
Drs. Paulos, Tucker
Call Stephanie @ 512-637-5841