Clinical neuropsychologists at Macquarie MindScan apply expertise in the assessment of cognition (thinking), emotion and behaviour. Comprehensive neuropsychological assessment can provide invaluable diagnostic and prognostic information in individuals with brain dysfunction (or those suspected to have dysfunction), arising from various neurological, psychiatric, or other medical conditions.
A neuropsychological assessment is usually recommended when a patient has symptoms or complaints involving memory or some other aspect of thinking. These complaints may include:
- Trouble finding the right words
- Difficulty communicating or understanding
- Trouble concentrating
- Difficulty analysing information and solving problems
- Difficulty remembering recent events
- Changes in behavior or emotional control
Neuropsychological assessment can be helpful in the diagnosis and management of:
- Neurosurgical conditions (e.g., brain tumours, hydrocephalus)
- Traumatic or acquired brain injury (e.g., head injury, stroke)
- Neurodegenerative disorders (e.g., Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease)
- Other neurological disorders (e.g., epilepsy, multiple sclerosis)
- Psychiatric disorders affecting cognition (e.g., depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, PTSD)
- Developmental and learning disorders (e.g., dyslexia, ADHD)
- Medical conditions that can affect brain functioning (e.g., toxic exposure, metabolic disorders, autoimmune disorders)
The findings of neuropsychological assessment can play an important role in:
- Establishing or clarifying a diagnosis, or differentiating between two or more conditions
- Detecting subtle problems that may not be evident on cognitive screening or brain imaging
- Determining cognitive strengths and weaknesses
- Increasing understanding of the impact of a condition on an individual’s level of function
- Guide return to work or study, or more general rehabilitation planning
- Identifying strategies that may assist performance and help improve quality of life
- Demonstrating how well an individual is recovering from a stroke or traumatic brain injury
- In some instances, an assessment is performed before and after medical or surgical treatment to determine if cognitive abilities were affected by the intervention
What does a neuropsychological assessment involve?
An interview normally forms the first part of the assessment. The individual’s concerns and background history are discussed. It is helpful to interview a family member, carer, or close friend to obtain an independent perspective.
The main part of a comprehensive assessment involves the evaluation of cognitive abilities, emotional state, and academic achievement. Patients normally complete many tasks involving concentration, solving problems or puzzles, and remembering things told or shown to them by the neuropsychologist. Most people find some of the tasks easy and others to be difficult. It is important that people work as hard as possible on all of the tasks in order for the results to be informative.
Many of the tests used in neuropsychological assessment are standardised, which means they are given the same way to everybody, and scores are referenced to appropriate normative data. In this way, a person’s performances are compared to those of other people who are matched in terms of age, gender, and educational background.
Most assessments require about two to three hours, including the initial interview. Once the assessment is complete the results are interpreted in the comprehensive context of the person’s history. Feedback may be given on a subsequent appointment, by phone, or via the referring specialist or GP, who receives a detailed report.
How should I prepare for a neuropsychological assessment?
- Try to get a good night’s sleep
- Take all your medications as usual
- If you use glasses, contact lenses, or hearing aids, make sure you have them with you
If you have had neuropsychological, psychological, or academic testing done in the past, bring those records with you.