What is Neuropsychological Testing?

Neuropsychological testing/evaluation, or NPE, is carried out when an individual is suspected of having or is already suffering from brain dysfunction. Using this evaluation technique, a person’s cognitive, behavioral, motor, executive and linguistic functioning levels are tested to determine the affect of brain damage on that person’s ability to remember, reason, concentrate and solve problems. These tests are done so that possible treatments can be worked out for individuals based on their personal conditions.

Neuropsychological testing can effectively give insight into the psychological aspects of a person, overcoming the limitations presented by modern imaging techniques. These tests are often combined with additional information from physical examinations, clinical reports, and other self and relative reports to give a comprehensive evaluation of a person’s psychological condition. However, specially trained neuropsychologists should carry out these evaluations due to their complex nature.

When Is Neuropsychological Testing Recommended?

Neuropsychological testing is recommended by doctor after a patient’s brain is believed to be damaged, causing dysfunction. The following are some situations when someone might be told to get a NPE:

  • If they are suffering from a disease that can cause brain damage such as epilepsy, AIDS, brain tumor, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, multiple sclerosis, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or stroke.
  • If they had suffered a head trauma or injury that might have caused brain damage.
  • If they have a history of substance abuse that might have damaged their brain.
  • If they were exposed to chemicals, poisons or pollution which might have resulted in brain damage.

The Procedure

Patients are not required to prepare for a neuropsychological testing. However, they should consult their neuropsychologist in advance to find out more about the actual procedure. If the test had bot been  ordered by a court of law, the patient will have to sign a consent form declaring that they are aware of every aspect of the test. Moreover, before the test starts, the neuropsychologist will ask for records concerning the patient’s medical history to detect any of the causes of brain damage.

The test itself is standardized, administered in either written or oral format. In written tests, the person undergoing them will be given a question or a shown a picture and prompted to provide response. In oral tests, the subject might have to answer a question or perform a skill like arranging things in a systematic way while their actions will be recorded on paper and on tape. Their emotional responses during the entire time are also studied carefully by the neuropsychologists. Considering their responses and other factors like age and developmental stage, the evaluation results are formulated in a reported form.

Overall, it is quite a safe procedure with no apparent side effects. It is usually carried out if a doctor recommends it. This testing is also important if the doctor needs to understand the extent of the brain damage and its affect on the person’s overall functioning so that effective therapies can be recommended.