Neuropsychological evaluation consists of a clinical evaluation to understand an individual’s cognitive strengths and deficits. A neuropsychological evaluation may be completed for various reasons such as educational planning, documenting deficits due to a neurologic injury, or establishing the presence of a neurologic injury. To complete a neuropsychological evaluation, the individual must be able to follow simple directions, answer simple questions, and cooperate with the examiner. Due to these restrictions, neuropsychological evaluation cannot be completed with an individual who is in a coma, who is paralyzed and unable to speak, or who refuses to cooperate with the procedure.
Neuropsychological evaluation is often used to help in rehabilitation treatment planning and discharge planning. The results of a neuropsychological evaluation can be used to determine if the individual is able to make competent decisions, is able to return to competitive employment, able to drive a vehicle, etc. Recommendations can be made regarding the individual’s need for supervision, structure, and support.
Neuropsychological evaluation consists of standardized tests that allow an individual’s performance to be compared to others to determine his/her level of functioning. These tests look at functions such as auditory attention, working memory, learning slope, auditory memory, visual memory, problem solving, complex/divided attention tasks, visual processing, language skills, and motor skills. By comparing the individuals scores on these tasks areas of deficit can be identified and related to areas of brain injury/neurologic dysfunction.
In the early stages of recovery, neuropsychological evaluation will consist of determining the individual’s level of alertness and responsiveness. As she/he becomes more interactive, basic tests will determine if he/she is able to follow directions, to respond to stimuli, and to interact with the environment. Serial evaluations are beneficial to track the individual’s recovery over time and her/his response to therapeutic interventions. When a child has a brain injury, serial neuropsychological evaluation are important to track changes in his/her cognitive functioning, and her/his ability to reach expected stages of brain maturation.
Neuropsychological evaluations are often used to establish the degree of cognitive damage caused by a traumatic brain injury and how the damage will impact the individual’s ability to work, complete self-care independently, live independently, and interact with others. At times, the neuropsychological evaluation will be used to establish the presence or absence of cognitive deficits secondary to traumatic brain injury. This can happen when the objective measures, such as CTs or EEGs, have not demonstrated clear evidence of the degree of damage that has occurred. Tests of motivation are used during these evaluations to help determine if the individual is putting forth full effort, or possibly attempting to exaggerate the degree of deficit. A neuropsychologist will also examine the pattern of deficits to determine if the pattern is internally consistent, and if the pattern is consistent with the reported injury.