In my recent blog ‘What is neuropsychology?’, I outlined that neuropsychology is often described as the study of brain-behaviour relationships and that clinical neuropsychologists have advanced knowledge of those relationships. This knowledge, combined with the results of a neuropsychological assessment, allows clinical neuropsychologists to gain an individualised understanding of how a brain-based condition is impacting your cognitive function and your day-to-day life. Subsequently, they can make
recommendations for interventions to help you improve your day-to-day functioning.
In this blog, I’ll describe some of the key ways a neuropsychological assessment can be helpful. In an upcoming blog, one of our clinical neuropsychologists, Simone Mangelsdorf, will write more about what happens during a neuropsychological assessment.
A comprehensive neuropsychological assessment consists of a few key components:
A clinical history to get a good understanding of your current concerns and the relevant history (such as your medical and educational history) and formal assessment, which involves completing a range of standardised assessment tasks. The results of the formal assessment are interpreted in light of the clinical history and a report is provided to the referrer along with any recommendations for intervention. You'll also receive feedback and suggestions about what could help support your day-to-day functioning.
A comprehensive neuropsychological assessment can help with:
Diagnosis. Your doctor may have referred you for assessment to help clarify a diagnosis - they may be concerned, for example, that you have a neurological condition, such as a movement disorder or dementia. Although brain scans and blood tests can also help with diagnosis, they do not always give the whole picture. Neuropsychological assessment can help document subtle changes that may not be evident on readily available neuroimaging and may help indicate which of several diagnoses is most likely. The assessment may also help explain which factors are contributing to a change in your day-to-day functioning .
Strengths and Weaknesses. A neuropsychological assessment can help provide a detailed profile of your personal strengths and weaknesses in terms of your thinking skills. Understanding your own strengths and weaknesses can help you maximise cognitive performance and enhance occupational and educational outcomes.
Characterisation/clarification of the impact of an injury. After a brain injury (perhaps from an accident or a stroke), a neuropsychological assessment can help clarify the impact of the injury on your functioning. It can help determine which thinking skills are not as strong as before and which are unchanged. This may also help account for any change in your behaviour since the injury and can help the rehabilitation team plan appropriate interventions.
Baseline/monitoring. Because many conditions that impact the brain can improve or worsen over time, neuropsychological assessment can provide a useful baseline to help document those changes over time.
Monitor Medication efficacy or side effects: If a doctor is prescribing medications to help improve your cognition they may ask for repeated (brief) neuropsychological assessments to help determine the efficacy of the medication. They may also ask for repeat assessments if a possible side effect of medication is a decline in cognitive function, such as slowed speed of thinking, to help monitor any cognitive side-effects.
Educational: In school settings, assessments of children's thinking and memory skills can help with the diagnosis of learning and developmental disorders. In university settings assessments may help by documenting undiagnosed learning difficulties or clarifying the impact of a mental health condition on your thinking skills. Clarifying your strengths and weaknesses can help you learn more effectively and can also help you access the support that you need.
Capacity Assessments: Neuropsychological assessment can form an important part of the assessment of your decision making capacity or your capacity for other specific areas of functioning.
Medicolegal Assessments: Assessment may be requested in medicolegal contexts. For example, the assessment may be requested to help document the severity of a brain injury incurred in a traffic accident (for example, in Victoria, the Traffic Accident Commission (TAC) may need this information to determine the compensation that is appropriate).
Not all clinical neuropsychologists provide all of the assessment types described above; they each have different areas of expertise depending on their interests and the workplaces they have had the opportunity to work in. You can find out more about the areas of expertise of the YCP clinical neuropsychologists here.
I hope the above information provides you with an idea of the range of ways a neuropsychological assessment could be helpful to you.
Keep an eye out for our upcoming blogs:
How can neuropsychological intervention be helpful?
What to expect if you are having a neuropsychological assessment
In the interim, if you have any queries about neuropsychology and the services that clinical neuropsychologists offer, please feel free to contact us via our website.
© Laura Humphreys, Yarra City Psychology, 2018. You are welcome to share this blog as long as it is shared in full and unchanged and with credit provided to Laura Humphreys and Yarra City Psychology.