Milwaukee VA Medical Center
What is Clinical Neuropsychology?
Within the field of psychology it is a specialty profession that focuses on brain functioning. This is assessed by objectively testing memory and other thinking skills. A very detailed assessment of abilities is done, and the pattern of strengths and weaknesses is used in important health care areas, such as diagnosis and treatment planning.
Why have I been referred?
Testing is usually recommended when there are symptoms or complaints involving memory or thinking. These may be signaled by changes in concentration, organization, reasoning, memory, language, perception, coordination or personality. The changes may be due to any of a number of medical, neurological, psychological or genetic causes. Testing will be helpful in understanding your specific situation.
What is assessed?
A typical neuropsychological evaluation may involve assessment of the following:
- General intellect
- Higher level executive skills (e.g., sequencing, reasoning, problem solving)
- Attention & concentration
- Learning & memory
- Visual-spatial skills (e.g., perception, construction)
- Motor and sensory skills
- Mood and personality
How are test scores used to understand my specific situation
Your test scores are compared to scores from people who are like you in important ways. By using database scores from large groups of healthy people for comparison, the neuropsychologist can judge whether or not your scores are normal for your age and educational background. The pattern of your own test scores will also be reviewed to estimate whether or not there has been a change in certain abilities. The process by which you go about solving the various problems and answering questions during the examination will also be noted. In this way, your strengths and weaknesses are identified.
What will the results tell me?
- Testing can identify weaknesses in specific areas that may be related to medical conditions, such as diabetes, metabolic or infectious diseases or alcoholism.
- Testing can also be used to help differentiate among illnesses, which is important because appropriate treatment depends on accurate diagnosis. Different illnesses result in different patterns of strengths and weaknesses. For instance, testing can help to differentiate among Alzheimer’s disease, stroke and depression. Your physician/licensed care provider will use this information along with the results of other tests, such as brain imaging and blood tests, to come to the most informed diagnosis possible.
- Sometimes testing is used to establish a “baseline,” or document a person’s skills before there is any problem. In this way, later changes can be measured very objectively.
- Test results can be used to plan treatments that use strengths to compensate for weaknesses. They may serve as a guideline for rehabilitation after stroke, head injury or other brain insult.
- Studies have shown how scores on specific tests relate to everyday functional skills, such as managing money, driving or readiness to return to work. Your results will help your providers understand what problems you may have in everyday life and help guide in planning for assistance or treatment.
What should I expect?
A neuropsychological evaluation usually consists of an interview, testing and feedback. You will be asked about your current concerns or symptoms, medical history, medications and other important factors. Testing involves paper-and-pencil and/or computerized tests and answering questions. This portion is often conducted by a specially trained technician. In general, several hours are needed to assess the many skills involved in processing information. Some tests will be easy while others will be more complex and challenging. The most important thing is to try your best. Bring glasses or hearing aids if you need them. Try to rest and relax before your evaluation. You will probably find testing interesting, and the detailed information that is gathered will contribute to your care.
Adapted from APA: Division 40 Public Interest Advisory Committee
- Main hospital
Hours of Operation
- 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.