A clinical neuropsychological assessment is performed when an individual is referred by a medical or mental health provider for the purpose of assessing cognitive and psychological status. A clinical neuropsychologist is a licensed psychologist with expertise in how behavior and thinking skills are related to brain structures and systems. A neuropsychological assessment essentially involves performing a functional map of the cortex. Brain functions are evaluated using objective and standardized tests that measure multiple areas of cognition (attention, memory, motor and mental processing speed, language abilities, visual-spatial functions, problem-solving, academic abilities and executive capacity). A clinical neuropsychological evaluation can be requested for several different reasons and purposes.
- Differential Diagnosis – Different illnesses and conditions have different patterns of strengths and weaknesses. Neuropsychological evaluations can be used to help identify and differentiate neurological and psychological conditions. Determining and accurate diagnosis is very important because appropriate treatment depends on accurate diagnosis.
- Rehabilitation and Treatment Planning – Once an accurate diagnosis is established and detailed knowledge about cognitive, behavioral and emotional status is obtained, this information can and will be used to help determine the most effective ways to treat and intervene to help each individual function as independently as possible. Individuals with acquired brain injury (traumatic brain injury, stroke, anoxic brain injury) may be participating in rehabilitation services (PT, OT, Speech Therapy) and the neuropsychological assessment is often helpful in guiding the rehabilitation team, helping the doctors and therapists better understand the pattern of cognitive strengths and weaknesses. Emphasis is on helping individuals compensate for their areas of cognitive challenge by using and relying on their areas of strength.
- Documentation of Change – Individuals with certain illnesses and medical conditions may be referred for neuropsychological evaluation to document change over the progression of a disorder, as well as the monitor the effects of surgical, medical, and behavioral treatments on the individual’s neurocognitive status and overall level of functioning.
What to Expect?
Your clinical neuropsychological assessment is an all-day process and you should plan to be at the office most or all of the day. Your evaluation will begin with a 1 to 2-hour interview with Dr. Dahmer-White where she will review your medical, social, family, educational and employment history. There will be extensive discussion of the problems and symptoms that are bringing you in for the evaluation. Dr. Dahmer-White will want to interview a spouse, significant other, parent, or other close family member or friend for part of the session to obtain information from someone else who knows you well.
After the interview, a specific and individualized battery of tests will be selected by Dr. Dahmer-White and testing will then begin after a short break. The tests are usually administered by the psychometrist, a specially trained technician in neuropsychometric assessment. Testing includes a variety of different tasks that measure attention, memory, academic skills, problem-solving and judgment, visual-spatial abilities, mood and personality). The tests do not involve any medical procedures, injections or X-rays/Scans. A one-hour lunch break will be taken and any testing that is not completed by then will be performed after lunch.
A feedback appointment with Dr. Dahmer-White will be scheduled after the testing (appointment is usually scheduled within 2 weeks) where you will come back and meet to discuss the testing results and recommendations. Dr. Dahmer-White will then produce a written evaluation report.