Neuropsychology is concerned with relationships between the brain and behavior. Neuropsychologists conduct evaluations to characterize behavioral and cognitive changes resulting from central nervous system disease or injury, like Parkinson's disease or another movement disorder. Some neuropsychologists also focus on remediation of or adaptation to these behavioral and mental changes and other symptoms.
Neuropsychological evaluation is an assessment of how one's brain functions, which indirectly yields information about the structural and functional integrity of your brain. The neuropsychological evaluation involves an interview and the administration of tests. The tests are typically pencil and paper type tests. Some tasks might be self-reports meaning that they are completed by the patient with assistance from a technician, but the majority of the tests require administration by a neuropsychologist or trained, skilled psychometrist.
Neuropsychological tests (unlike bedside cognitive and behavioral neurologic screens) are standardized, meaning that they are given in the same manner to all patients and scored in a similar manner time after time. An individual's scores on tests are interpreted by comparing their score to that of healthy individuals of a similar demographic background (i.e., of similar age, education, gender, and/or ethnic background) and to expected levels of functioning. In this way, a neuropsychologist can determine whether one's performance on any given task represents a strength or weakness. Although individual scores are important, the neuropsychologist looks at all of the data from the evaluation to determine a pattern of cognitive strengths and weaknesses and, in turn, to understand more about how the brain is functioning.
Neuropsychological tests evaluate functioning in a number of areas including: intelligence, executive functions (such as planning, abstraction, conceptualization), attention, memory, language, perception, sensorimotor functions, motivation, mood state and emotion, quality of life, and personality styles. The areas addressed in an individual's evaluation are determined by the referral question (what the referring doctor and patient wants to know), patient's complaints and symptoms, and observations made during interview and test administration.
A complete evaluation generally takes between two and five hours to complete, but can take up to eight hours, depending on the complexity of the issues to be addressed by the evaluation and the patient's condition (for example, fatigue, confusion, and motor slowing can extend the time required for an evaluation). Occasionally, it is necessary to complete the evaluation over two or more sessions. In general, the clinician attempts to elicit the patient's best possible performance under optimal conditions.
Neuropsychological evaluation documents patterns of strengths and weakness among cognitive and behavioral functions. For patients with Parkinson's disease or another movement disorder, an evaluation and interpretation of this pattern of strengths and weaknesses can:
These are not tests that one can study for, but there are several things that one can do to facilitate the evaluation: