Neuropsychology is the specialization of brain-behavior relationships
The neuropsychologist's expertise is in the ability to evaluate individual brain functioning as it relates to processing and output. Improper brain functioning often causes devastating effects that if not properly understood can further impair daily life in the areas of adaptive, social, occupational and educational functioning.
What is a Neuropsychological Evaluation?
Individual assessment takes place through interview, extensive testing, and medical record review which is combined with clinical knowledge to allow the neuropsychologist to compile data and elicit a brain-behavior profile. Testing involves evaluation of cognitive abilities which underlie basic and complex skills involved in everyday functioning. In addition, intellectual, emotional, and psychological functioning are evaluated, as well as academic functioning when appropriate. Results are correlated with brain functioning in light of the individual's history, including medical and psychiatric status. A full report is written, explaining the findings and recommendations, which is followed by a feedback appointment to guide treatment, interventions, and recommendations.
Neuropsychological testing can measure and evaluate a wide array of cognitive abilities, including the following:
- problem solving
- information processing
When is an Evaluation Appropriate?
When brain dysfunction either occurs or is suspected, a neuropsychologist can determine if there is an effect on cognition and behavior. Referral occurs to assist in determining diagnosis, treatment, rehabilitation, care, and planning of a wide array of disorders /injuries, including:
- traumatic brain injury
- movement disorders
- toxic poisoning
Neuropsychological examinations aid in understanding the effect of brain injuries and how a disease process has progressed and affected the individual. It is also used for differential diagnostic purposes and to evaluate effects of treatment and recovery. Furthermore, establishment of a baseline in individuals with a potential deteriorating illness allows for tracking of decompensation, understanding of the changes and appropriate preparation and planning for the individual. Cognitive changes that occur without obvious explanation, such as memory loss, confusion, or disorientation, are other reasons for seeking assessment. It should be noted that extreme stress or depression can also cause such symptoms.
Neurodevelopmental disorders occur when the brain does not develop as it should during growth. As a result, lifelong problems may exist. Evaluation helps to understand if and where cognitive dysfunction exists. For example, a reading disorder may be due to problems in visuoperception, attention or specific areas of language functioning. And many children who appear to have ADHD are misbehaving for other reasons that are not necessarily obvious; as a result, they are often misdiagnosed. Proper diagnosis and profiling of the brain-behavior relationship is necessary before the presenting problem(s) can be properly addressed. Among the neurodevelpmental disorders and related conditions that can be addressed by a neuropsychological evaluation are:
- learning disabilities
- congenital disorders
- lead poisoning
Definition of a Neuropsychologist*:
A clinical neuropsychologist is a professional within the field of psychology with special expertise in the applied science of brain-behavior relationships. Clinical neuropsychologists use this knowledge in the assessment, diagnosis, treatment, and/or rehabilitation of patients across the lifespan with neurological, medical, neurodevelopmental and psychiatric conditions, as well as other cognitive and learning disorders. The clinical neuropsychologist uses psychological, neurological, cognitive, behavioral, and physiological principles, techniques and tests to evaluate patients` neurocognitive, behavioral, and emotional strengths and weaknesses and their relationship to normal and abnormal central nervous system functioning. The clinical neuropsychologist uses this information and information provided by other medical/healthcare providers to identify and diagnose neurobehavioral disorders, and plan and implement intervention strategies. The specialty of clinical neuropsychology is recognized by the American Psychological Association and the Canadian Psychological Association. Clinical neuropsychologists are independent practitioners (healthcare providers) of clinical neuropsychology and psychology. The clinical neuropsychologist (minimal criteria) has:
* Official Statement of the National Academy of Neuropsychology Approved by the Board of Directors 5/5/2001
Links & Resources:
NYS Association of Neuropsychology
National Academy of Neuropsychology
International Neuropsychological Society
American Psychological Association, Neuropsychology Division
Brain Injury Association of NY