A neuropsychological evaluation involves the administration of various standardized measures that are sensitive to the assessment of behavioral and/or cognitive changes. The changes may be reflective of various brain processes and help in the diagnosis of brain dysfunction. These tests are noninvasive and unlike neuroimaging techniques such as the CT, MRI or EEG which help to localize possible areas of structural abnormality, the neuropsychological evaluation helps to identify areas of weakened ability that are dependent upon certain areas of intact brain functioning.
The neuropsychological evaluation is helpful in the assessment of individuals suspected as having functional weaknesses that result in problems with daily activities, behaviors and/or emotions. These weaknesses may contribute to problems with respect to the individual’s performance within an educational setting, work or general environmental situations. Weaknesses in many of these areas may be consequential to abnormalities in brain functioning, especially if there has been an acquired brain injury.
The neuropsychological evaluation is unique in that the sensitivity of the assessment oftentimes helps determine levels of weakness or impairment that is being experience by the individual, when there is no readily appreciable structural brain abnormality identified through neuroimaging or EEG studies. When structural changes have been identified however, the neuropsychological evaluation assists in determining what functions have been impaired and to what extent.
Typically the neuropsychological assessment will look at several domains of functional ability inclusive of: intellectual processes; the ability of the individual to focus, attend and concentrate; the cognitive processing speed an individual possesses in working through tasks; expressive and receptive speech and language skills addressing verbal reasoning and comprehension; visual reasoning abilities looking at visual perceptual and visual motor skills; auditory and verbal memory skills (inclusive of working memory, immediate memory, delayed memory, retrieval skills and recognition skills); visual memory skills addressing the encoding and retrieval of visual information; higher-level executive skills (encompassing the analysis of situations, reasoning through and solving problems; and the ability to shift one’s responses based upon environmental factors); sensory perception skills involving the assessment of tactile sensation, fine motor coordination, manipulation and speed; as well as personality factors.
Changes in general neurocognitive functioning can have an impact on multiple areas of general ability and functioning. The neuropsychological evaluation attempts to answer the questions associated with what are the individual’s abilities in certain areas while also providing for recommendations to help strengthen or compensate for areas of weakened ability.