Introduction to Neuropsychology
As we inaugurate our new website, it seemed appropriate to provide a brief description of the neuropsychological evaluation process. Neuropsychology is one of the three neurosciences involved in patient care, that is, neurology, neurosurgery, and neuropsychology. Whereas neurology uses tests that show how the brain works or looks (EEG, MRI), in order to make a diagnosis or plan treatment, neuropsychology uses tests that show how the brain thinks. These include measures of intelligence, attention and concentration, language, reasoning and judgment, problem-solving, visuospatial skills (e.g., reproducing designs or patterns), and memory. In children, tests of academic skills such as reading, spelling, writing and arithmetic may be used as well. Emotional functioning is also evaluated.
People are referred for neuropsychological testing in order to diagnosis problems that may affect thinking. In children, this could mean Attention Deficit Disorders, learning disabilities, or Pervasive Developmental Disorders such as Autism or Asperger's. In adults, it could be some type of dementia, meaning a decline in intellectual skills. Some of the most common dementias result from Alzheimer's Disease, Parkinson’s Disease, vascular events (stroke), or alcohol abuse. Other illnesses in adults causing cognitive (thinking) changes would include Multiple Sclerosis, seizures, heart and lung diseases, or liver problems. Adults can also have attentional problems, perhaps resulting from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. It should also be pointed out that depression and anxiety can affect thinking to such an extent that it might look like someone has a dementia, although these types of thinking changes are not permanent.
When you come for an evaluation, the process begins with an interview, in which questions are asked about the problems that concern you. Other areas covered will include history and background that could affect of influence the difficulties that you may be having. Having a parent, spouse, or someone else who knows you come to the interview can be helpful.
After the interview the actual testing is done, which involves being asked to do a variety of tasks, some aloud, some with paper and pencil; you may work with the psychologist on some, and by yourself on others. When these are done they are all scored and analyzed, the results forming a test score profile. Certain problems have identifiable profiles. These, and your personal and medical histories, help the psychologist make a diagnosis. This will be part of a report written for your doctor, which will include recommendations for therapy.
Many patients use insurance to cover some or most of the costs of the evaluation. Edelson & Associates clinicians participate with almost all insurance carriers.