About Neuropsychology and the Exam

What is neuropsychology?

Diseases like stroke, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, stroke and depression can all affect human behavior in addition to the brain and central nervous system. Clinical neuropsychology is a field that examines how these diseases, as well as other conditions like the natural aging process, affect our ability to think, function, and interact with others. Clinical neuropsychologists work one-on-one with patients to assess their brain functioning and skills.

An important part of this work is the neuropsychological evaluation, where a neuropsychologist tests a patient's thinking and memory for strengths and weaknesses. After establishing these patterns, the neuropsychologist works with a patient and other health-care providers to diagnose possible conditions, find a best treatment, and plan for the future.

What is a neuropsychological evaluation?

A neuropsychological evaluation provides a detailed picture of a person's memory and thinking skills. Parts of this test may be performed like an interview, with a neuropsychologist asking questions about your medical history, background, symptoms, and other factors.

During other parts of the evaluation, you may answer questions with a computer, or pencil and paper. This part of the evaluation examines many different areas, including:

  • your ability to plan, organize, and complete tasks
  • attention
  • memory
  • language
  • mood and emotion
  • intelligence

The evaluation usually takes several hours to complete. Once you have completed the exam, a neuropsychologist will compare your scores in each of these areas to healthy individuals of a similar age and background. Combined, these scores together will paint a picture about how your brain is functioning.

Why are neuropsychological evaluations important?

The neuropsychological evaluation is important for several reasons. Testing can identify problems such as memory loss early, before a patient notices them. Testing can also help to distinguish between illnesses that cause similar symptoms, such as stroke, depression, or Alzheimer's disease. Finally, the evaluation can establish a person's skills and abilities before there is a problem, so that later changes can be objectively measured.