In our last post, we looked at what a neuropsychological evaluation is, and how it can be used as a tool to identify cognitive impairments. In this post we will talking about how a neuropsychological evaluation works in more detail.
What Can I Expect During a Neuropsychological Evaluation?
A neuropsychological evaluation will generally consist of (1) a review of your medical and other records (this could include your insurance claim file); (2) an interview with you and sometimes another person such as a family member or caregiver who knows you well, (especially if your disability impacts your ability to self-report); and (3) the administration of tests that measure both your mood and abilities.
The evaluation will typically begin with an interview and then proceed to testing. The tests will be both written and oral, and vary in length and complexity. Often the tests will be administered by a specially trained technician, or a psychometrist. The typical evaluation takes between two to five hours to complete, but can stretch up to eight hours and/or be split into two sessions. Conditions such as fatigue or motor impairments can slow down the process.
The results will generally be presented in a report that includes a summary of the tests conducted, a summary of your key medical and personal history, your current issues (i.e. the reason the neuropsychological exam was requested), the results of the testing, how these results compare to other people with your background, and a list of recommendations. As explained previously, these recommendations can help indicate the need for additional treatment, suggest treatment options, and/or provide information on cognitive deficiencies and resulting physical and mental limitations.
The evaluation is designed to assess your knowledge, functioning, and skills at the time of the exam. Because of this, it is not the sort of test that you would “study” for, in the same sense that you would study for, say, an academic exam. However, if you are going to be undergoing a neuropsychological exam, evaluators typically recommend that you:
- Get a good night’s sleep
- Put forth your best effort
- Provide a list of all medications and take all medication as normally scheduled, unless instructed otherwise
- Bring a friend or family member if you have trouble relating information about your history (for the interview portion of the examination)
- Make sure the evaluator has access to your medical records
- Do not consume alcohol or other illicit substances within the 24 hours prior to the evaluation
- Notify the examiner of excessive fatigue, psychological distress, or frequent changes in your ability to move
Our next posts in this series will address the reliability of neuropsychological examinations and why your insurance company may ask for one.
Atif B. Malike, MD; Chief Editor, et al., Neuropsychological Evaluation, Medscape, http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/317596-overview, updated May 18, 2017.
Neuropsychological Evaluation FAQ, University of North Carolina School of Medicine Department of Neurology, https://www.med.unc.edu/neurology/divisions/movement-disorders/npsycheval
Kathryn Wilder Schaaf, PhD, et al, Frequently Asked Questions About Neuropsychological Evaluation, Virginia Commonwealth University Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&ved=0ahUKEwir3pKk__fUAhUBEmMKHenkDzsQFggoMAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.tbinrc.com%2FWebsites%2Ftbinrcnew%2Fimages%2FNeuropsych_FAQ.pdf&usg=AFQjCNG0Mv3o17ZrNmXuDN5ITUIh4fWYtA&cad=rja