What is a neuropsychological evaluation?
A neuropsychological evaluation is an assessment of how a person’s brain is working in areas of thinking ability and behavior. There are typically three components:
1. A review of your medical and other records
2. An interview with you and if possible another person who knows you well, such as a family member, close friend, or
3. The neuropsychological testing itself which involves different kinds of written and oral tests. For some tests, you
will be asked to write or draw something and for others you will need to listen and answer questions.
Neuropsychological tests are standardized, meaning that they are given in the same way to all patients and scored in a similar manner. An individual's scores on tests are interpreted by comparing their scores to that of healthy individuals of a similar background, including age and education where possible. In this way, a neuropsychologist can determine whether a person’s performance on any given task represents a strength or weakness.
What skills and abilities will neuropsychological tests measure?
Neuropsychological tests will typically examine a variety of cognitive skills and abilities such as verbal reasoning, non-verbal visual spatial reasoning, planning and abstract thinking, attention and concentration, learning and memory, language, processing speed, and academic skills. Questions about mood and emotions will also be discussed since when people are worried, upset, or sad they can have increased cognitive difficulty for areas like attention, processing speed, or memory.
How long does a neuropsychological evaluation take?
A complete evaluation generally takes between three and five hours to complete, but can take up to eight hours, depending on the complexity of the issues to be addressed and the patient's condition (for example, fatigue, confusion, and motor slowing can extend the time required for an evaluation).
Why has a neuropsychological evaluation been recommended?
- To assist your doctor in making the right diagnosis (e.g., to determine whether possible mental and behavioral changes are related to a possible neurological condition or other factors such as depression, anxiety, chronic pain, or fatigue).
- To help your doctor in the treatment of your symptoms
- To provide a baseline which future evaluations can be compared to. This helps your doctor determine whether your functioning is changing over time.
- To help you and your family answer questions about whether a person needs help with normal day to day activities and functioning such as financial management, need for accommodations at school or work, or the ability to live alone.
Is there any way to prepare for a neuropsychological evaluation?
These are not tests that a person can study for, but there are several things a person can do to make the evaluation more accurate:
- Bring a current list of all medications and doses
- It is strongly recommended that a family member or friend be present for the initial interview part of the evaluation, since they can provide another perspective on how a person is doing. Sometimes a patient who is having memory difficulties finds it hard to accurately provide information about their daily functioning or any memory changes they have been having.
- It is also important for the patient to bring eye glasses or hearing aids if they use them.
What other things can impact my test scores?
It is the goal of the neuropsychologist to get the best possible picture of a person’s current functioning. Several things can interfere with this goal, such as if a person is:
- Excessively tired or fatigued
- Not motivated to put forth their best effort
- Very emotionally distraught or upset
- Under the influence of medications or illicit substances which can interfere with
Patients should not worry about whether they will "pass" the tests. The tests cannot be passed or failed; instead they describe how well a person performs relative to other people their age.
How will I get my test results?
Feedback will be provided regarding the results and recommendations of the neuropsychological testing, either on the same day of testing or at a follow-up appointment that will be scheduled.
Does my insurance cover neuropsychological evaluations?
Most major insurances have some coverage for neuropsychological examinations and Dr. Fitz is contracted with many insurance carriers, including Medicare. Please check with your insurance company if you need to clarify what your benefits are for this type of evaluation. Our office can often help provide some specific information on your insurance carrier.