Neuropsychological assessment involves an examination of the brain and behaviour. Your performance on a variety of paper-pencil and computer tests provides a cognitive profile and information about the integrity of your brain function. Cognitive testing can take several hours to complete depending on the reason for referral. For many conditions, objective cognitive tests are more sensitive in detecting brain dysfunction or changes than current neuroimaging methods.
Thinking abilities tested can include attention, IQ and academic abilities, processing speed, learning and memory, language skills, visuoperceptual abilities, motor coordination, and executive functions, such as problem-solving, planning, reasoning, impulse control, and working memory (the ability to hold and manipulate information in mind). Psychological psychometric testing is also completed.
All psychometric scores are compared to normative datasets. Normative datasets can control for the effects of age, education, gender, and neurological or psychological conditions on test scores. In addition to cognitive and psychological testing, neuropsychological evaluations include a detailed clinical interview, diagnostic psychological evaluation, and review of medical, psychological and/ or neurological documentation. Interpretation of the comprehensive neuropsychological profile and formulation of diagnoses are informed by considering the interplay and impact of many variables.
Questions that can be answered by a neuropsychological evaluation, depending on the nature of the referral, can include the following:
- Diagnosis of neurological or neurodevelopmental disorders and their impact on cognitive function.
- Provision of clinical opinions and information to assist multidisciplinary care teams in reaching diagnoses of complex conditions or determining whether a medical intervention or medication was successful in improving cognition.
- Diagnosis of psychological conditions, including their impact on cognitive function.
- Types of cognitive abilities impaired or preserved.
- The severity of cognitive difficulties.
- Factors likely contributing to or causing cognitive difficulties.
- Improvement or decline in cognitive functioning over time with repeat testing.
- Recommendations pertaining to treatment plans for neurological and/or psychological conditions.
- How to optimize cognitive functioning via intact cognitive abilities (cognitive rehabilitation).
- Recommendations pertaining to accommodations for work and academic settings.
- Whether cognitive changes are normal for age or indicative of a neurodegenerative process.
- Guidance on future planning and decision-making in cases of neurodegenerative or brain injury conditions (dealing with finances, medication administration, meal preparation, and driving).
- Informing prognosis and/ or recovery in neurological and psychological conditions.
Neuropsychologists have advanced training in the administration and interpretation of psychometric tests, psychological and neurological diagnoses, neurocognitive and behavioural interventions, and psychotherapy.