A neuropsychological evaluation is a specific type of psychological evaluation that directly evaluates how the brain functions. Though we conduct these types of evaluations for a variety of reasons, most commonly an individual is experiencing negative symptoms and would like to determine whether they stem from a medical illness, brain injury, or psychological disorder.
The Neuropsychological Evaluation Process
Neuropsychological evaluations typically include a thorough in-person interview, as well as various tests that measure functioning in areas of intelligence, memory, language, executive functioning (i.e. planning, conceptualization), attention, perception, mood factors/emotions, and daily living skills. These evaluations help determine whether symptoms in question are the result of a medical illness, brain injury, or psychological disorder.
For example, there are some common symptoms that overlap between neurological disorders and depression; a neuropsychological evaluation may help to determine the most likely cause of such symptoms. If a neuropsychological evaluation discovers the “depression” symptoms are likely related to a brain injury, treatment for the symptoms differ greatly from a situation wherein the depression was the result from a traumatic emotional experience.
Additionally, and perhaps most importantly, neuropsychological evaluations can help determine areas of strength and weakness for an individual, which can in turn help to provide the best recommendations for improvement and growth.
Neuropsychological Evaluations in Context
The most common specific reasons why a neuropsychological evaluation might be recommended are to determine if any of the following have occurred and/or how to treat these conditions:
- A person is experiencing difficulties with memory, attention, or any change in functioning that might be due to neurological factors
- A person has suffered a stroke or other medical illness that can impact brain functioning(s)
- A person has undergone medical treatment (including medication changes) that appears to have resulted in changes in functioning
- A person has suffered a traumatic brain injury