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Neuropsychological Evaluations

Purpose of the Evaluation

Neuropsychological evaluations are typically requested to assist your doctors and healthcare providers in determining if functions of your brain, such as memory, attention, problem solving, etc., are functioning at expected levels. Doctors usually request a neuropsychological evaluation when you or people close to you are concerned that you may be having some difficulty with your memory or thinking.

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Often family members may notice the changes before the patient is aware of problems. Changes in brain abilities can be caused by medical, neurological, psychological or hereditary issues. Some of the more well known conditions associated with an affect upon brain functioning include:

  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Frontotemporal dementias/other dementias
  • Parkinson’s disease and other movement
  • disorders, including deep brain stimulation (DBS)
  • Epilepsy/seizure disorders
  • Head injuries/sports concussion
  • Brain tumors
  • Brain infections (encephalitis, meningitis, etc)
  • Sleep apnea and other sleep disorders
  • Depression
  • Strokes
  • Exposure to pesticides and other toxic chemicals
  • Heart attacks and cerebrovascular disease
  • Autoimmune disorders such as Multiple Sclerosis
  • Capacity/competency issues
  • Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus

What Brain Skills are Assessed?

Neuropsychological evaluations typically evaluate several areas of cognitive functioning. The neuropsychologist will look for particular patterns between these areas to help determine if there is need for concern. Some of the areas that the neuropsychologist will evaluate include:

  • General intellectual ability
  • Ability to pay attention
  • Memory
  • Language skills
  • Problem solving and reasoning ability
  • Functional abilities (everyday living skills)
  • Mood and personality

How Does My Neuropsychologist Use the Scores?

Once you have taken the tests, your test scores are compared to healthy people in your same age group who have a similar educational background. In this way, the neuropsychologist can determine if you are functioning where you should be for your age or if your scores may be low in some areas. If your scores are low in some areas, the neuropsychologist will look at the pattern of the scores to try to determine why they are low and if they reflect a particular disease pattern, such as Alzheimer’s disease or another type of dementia.

How Does This Evaluation Help?

  • Testing can determine if memory/cognitive changes are age-related or if they may be related to a particular disease or injury.
  • Test results may be used to establish a baseline of your abilities in order to compare it to future evaluations.
  • Test results are often required to assist in differentiating between different diseases so that the most appropriate treatment for that disease can be initiated.
  • Pre-neurosurgical assessments: If you are being considered for a neurosurgical procedure, such as deep brain stimulation or surgery for epilepsy, a neuropsychological assessment helps to inform the interdisciplinary team as to whether you would be a good candidate for the surgery or if you may be at significant risk for cognitive decline as a result of the surgery.
  • Your scores will also help you and your family members know what abilities you are able to do independently and what things you may need help with.

What to Expect

  • At some point during the evaluation, you and a family member will be interviewed to obtain a thorough understanding of what your symptoms are, when they first began, and how they have progressed.
  • The tests you will be given examine how certain brain systems are functioning. You will be given a wide variety of tests that examine these functions. Some of the tests will be quite easy for you and others will be quite difficult. This is normal. Just try your best on everything.
  • The length of testing will vary depending on several factors. However, you should plan on being here for most of the day (you may finish early). You will be given a break for lunch and you may request other breaks as needed. You may bring a drink or a snack and a lunch.
  • If you need to take medications during the day, please bring them with you.