WHAT IS CLINICAL NEUROPSYCHOLOGY?

Clinical Neuropsychology is a sub-specialty of clinical psychology which focuses on brain-behavior relationships, i.e. the functioning of the human brain.  Clinical neuropsychologists are involved in the diagnosis of brain disorders, assessing the nature and extent of impairment in cognitive and behavioral functioning, and treatment planning.  Testing can be helpful in establishing a diagnosis, e.g. normal aging vs. dementia, attention deficit disorder vs. learning disorder,  or in measuring the degree of functional impairment even after a diagnosis is made, e.g. concussion. Testing can also be used to measure the degree of improvement after treatment. A neuropsychologist is a doctoral level psychologist who has had extended training above and beyond the doctorate involving supervised experience and additional coursework in neuroanatomy and brain-behavior relationships.

WHAT’S INVOLVED IN A NEUROPSYCHOLOGICAL EVALUATION?

The typical neuropsychological evaluation begins with an interview of the patient focusing on present symptoms and relevant information from the patient’s history, i.e. medical, family, educational, and occupational history.  Testing is administered in a one-on-one situation and involves paper and pencil testing, manipulation of blocks and other motor tasks, computer-administered tasks, and measures of emotional functioning and personality. The length of the testing depends upon the nature of the problem and the referral question, but can typically last 6-7 hours.  

Older adults and children may require less time. Testing is often administered by a psychometrician, i.e. an assistant trained to give the tests, under the supervision of a neuropsychologist. The neuropsychologist is then responsible for integrating information gleaned from the history, medical records (when available), and the test data and writing a detailed report. A feedback session is most often suggested several weeks later during which time the patient and neuropsychologist can go over the results of the testing and discuss treatment recommendations.

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