Neuropsychology and Neuropsychological Evaluation

Neuropsychology

Neuropsychology is the study of brain-behavior relationships. It is aimed at understanding how the brain produces and controls behavior and mental processes, including:

  • emotions
  • personality
  • thinking
  • learning
  • memory
  • problem solving

Neuropsychology is particularly important in cases of “less severe” traumatic brain injury, where damage is not necessarily evident through other tests or imaging. It is a means to show how any damage to the brain alters behavior and interferes with mental and cognitive functions, frequently interfering with self-concept, relationships, and ability to work.

Neuropsychological Testing

In recent years, neuropsychological testing has become a very sophisticated science. Tests that are currently available are reliable, standardized instruments, with the ability to predict accurately in the 80-95% range. Neuropsychological tests are specifically designed tasks used to measure a psychological function known to be linked to a particular brain pathway. A typical examination consists of more than a dozen standardized tests. They are usually administered one-on-one in a quiet office, free from distractions.

Neuropsychological tests provide the most accurate picture of a patient’s cognitive functioning. Ultimately, they provide results that indicate the amount of deviation from base-line norms. Through a comparison of patient responses to established norms, the degree of cognitive impairment can be determined in the following areas:

  • Short-term and long-term memory
  • Ability to learn new skills
  • Ability to solve problems
  • Attention span
  • Concentration and distractibility
  • Logical and abstract reasoning
  • Language
  • Visual-spatial organization
  • Motor ability
  • Planning and organizing abilities

The neuropsychologist has the responsibility to sort out the factors that influence how the brain is working in order to understand the extent of the injury, whether it will progress, likelihood of recovery, and time of recovery.

Neuropsychological Evaluation (NPE)

In order to assess the patient, the neuropsychologist must have an accurate, extensive overview of their personality and abilities prior to the injury. The evaluation is not limited to the neurological testing but involves review of recent educational records and test scores, medical records, employment evaluations, and interviews with witnesses such as spouses, family members, fellow workers, and teachers to paint a picture of the patient “before and after” the brain injury.

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