What is Neuropsychology?
Clinical neuropsychology is a specialty profession focusing on brain functioning. A clinical neuropsychologist is a licensed psychologist with expertise in how behavior and skills are related to brain structures and systems. In clinical neuropsychology, brain function is evaluated by objectively testing memory and thinking skills.
What Do Neuropsychologists Do?
Neuropsychologists perform evaluations which are requested specifically to help your doctors and other professionals understand how the different areas and systems of the brain are working. Testing is usually recommended when there are symptoms or complaints involving memory or thinking. A very detailed assessment of abilities is done, and the pattern of strengths and weaknesses is used in important health care areas, such as diagnosis and treatment planning. The neuropsychologist may also provide treatment, such as cognitive rehabilitation, behavior management, or psychotherapy.
Who Should See a Neuropsychologist?
Symptoms that may call for a visit to a neuropsychologist include:
- Memory concerns/Pseudodementia
- Traumatic Brain Injury/Concussion
- Developmental Delays
- Autism Spectrum Disorders
- Mental Health
- Pre-Surgical (Bariatric and Spinal Stimulation)
- Multiple Sclerosis & Other Neurodegenerative Disorders
- Movement Disorders
What Will Testing Reveal?
Testing results can be used to understand your situation in a number of ways.
- Testing can identify weakness in specific areas. It is very sensitive to mild memory and thinking problems that might not be obvious in other ways. When problems are very mild, testing may be the only way to detect them. For example, testing can help determine whether memory changes are normal age-related changes or if they reflect a neurological disorder. Testing might also be used to identify problems related to medical conditions that can affect memory and thinking, such as diabetes, metabolic or infectious diseases, or alcoholism.
- Test results can also be used to help differentiate among illnesses, which is important because appropriate treatment depends on accurate diagnosis. Different illnesses result in different patterns of strengths and weaknesses on testing. Therefore, the results can be helpful in determining which areas of the brain might be involved and what illness might be operating. For instance, testing can help to differentiate among Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, and depression. Your physician will use this information along with the results of other tests, such as brain imaging and blood tests, to come to the most informed diagnosis possible.
- Sometimes testing is used to establish a “baseline,” or document a person’s skills before there is any problem. In this way, later changes can be measured very objectively.
- Test results can be used to plan treatments that use strengths to compensate for weaknesses. The results help to identify what target problems to work on and which strategies to use. For example, the results can help to plan and monitor rehabilitation or to follow the recovery of skills after a stroke or traumatic brain injury.
- Studies have shown how scores on specific tests relate to everyday functional skills, such as managing money, driving, or readiness to return to work. Your results will help your doctors understand what problems you may have in everyday life. This will help guide planning for assistance or treatment.