What is a Neuropsychological Evaluation? – Part 1
We’ve talked before about how your insurance company may require you to undergo an independent medical examination (IME) by a physician of their choosing and how they may also ask for a Functional Capacity Evaluation (FCE).
Neuropsychological evaluations are another tool insurers utilize when investigating disability claims. A neuropsychological evaluation is also something that a claimant filing a disability claim may choose to undergo independently, to provide additional proof of his or her disability. In this series of posts, we will be talking about what a neuropsychological evaluation is, what to expect during an examination, and how an exam could affect your disability claim.
What is a Neuropsychological Evaluation?
Neuropsychology is the study of the relationship between the brain and behavior. A neuropsychological evaluation is a method of testing where a neuropsychologist seeks to obtain data about a subject’s cognitive, behavioral, linguistic, motor, and executive functioning in order to identify changes that are, often, the result of a disease or injury. The evaluation can lead to the diagnosis of a cognitive deficit or the confirmation of a diagnosis, as well as provide differential diagnoses.
Neuropsychological evaluations are most often associated with conditions that exhibit cognitive dysfunctions, such as:
- Multiple sclerosis
- Epilepsy or seizures
- Psychological and mental health disorders
- Chronic pain
- Head injuries
- Parkinson’s disease
- Neurodegenerative diseases
- Side effects of medication
Conditions such as those enumerated above often have symptoms that vary person by person, and the amount of cognitive impairment can often not be fully assessed by other diagnostic tools such as an MRI, or a traditional psychological evaluation.
Neuropsychological tests are standardized tests that are given and scored in a similar manner each time they are used. The tests are designed to evaluate the following:
- Intellectual Functioning
- Academic Achievement
- Language Processing
- Visuospatial Processing
- Verbal Learning and Memory
- Executive Functions
- Speed of Processing
- Sensory-Perceptual Functions
- Motor Speed and Strength
There are many different accepted tests for each domain listed above. Accordingly, an examiner will likely not perform every test, but rather select tests from each category that will best evaluate the particular question posed by the referrer.
The goal of these neuropsychological tests is to produce raw data. The results are then evaluated by comparing test scores to healthy individuals of a similar background (age, education, gender, ethnic background, etc.) and to expected levels of cognitive functioning. The data is then interpreted by the neuropsychologist, and perhaps other providers, to determine the strengths and weaknesses of the subject’s brain, provide suggestions for potential treatment options, set a standard for any future testing, evaluate a course of treatment, make recommendations on steps and modifications that can improve daily living, and evaluate whether a subject can return to work with or without modifications.
In our next post we will go look at what you can expect during a neurospychological evaluation.
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.