What is neuropsychology?
Neuropsychology is a branch of clinical psychology that studies how the brain and nervous system affect how we function on a daily basis. Unlike the use of neuroimaging techniques such as MRI, CT scans and EEG where the focus is on nervous system structures, neuropsychology seeks to understand how the various components of the brain are able to do their jobs. Clinical neuropsychology makes use of various assessment methods to ascertain function and dysfunction and applies this knowledge to evaluate, treat and rehabilitate individuals with suspected or demonstrated neurological or psychological problems.
What is a neuropsychologist?
According to the National Academy of Neuropsychology (www.nanonline.org) a clinical neuropsychologist is a professional within the field of psychology with special expertise in the applied science of brain-behavior relationships. Clinical neuropsychologists use this knowledge in the assessment, diagnosis, treatment, and/or rehabilitation of patients across the lifespan with neurological, medical, neurodevelopmental and psychiatric conditions, as well as other cognitive and learning disorders. The clinical neuropsychologist uses psychological, neurological, cognitive, behavioral, and physiological principles, techniques and tests to evaluate patients’ neurocognitive, behavioral, and emotional strengths and weaknesses and their relationship to normal and abnormal central nervous system functioning. The clinical neuropsychologist integrates information gathered during the evaluation process with information provided by other medical/healthcare providers to identify and diagnose neurobehavioral disorders, and plan and implement intervention strategies. The specialty of clinical neuropsychology is recognized by the American Psychological Association and the Canadian Psychological Association. Clinical neuropsychologists are independent practitioners (healthcare providers) of clinical neuropsychology and psychology.
Why seek an evaluation from a neuropsychologist?
This important question is frequently asked by parents and potential patients, particularly in light of the fact that many other individuals including clinical psychologists and school psychologists who are not trained in neuropsychology often claim to be able to conduct such an evaluation. While it is true that clinical and school psychologists can learn to administer nearly any test that a neuropsychologist uses, the primary difference is how the measure is applied and interpreted. The training that a neuropsychologist receives enables him or her to understand the test findings within the context of how the brain of the person who is being evaluated is functioning. This entails a detailed knowledge of brain anatomy, the role that different brain areas serve and how these functions are likely to be impacted by various disorders such as Down’s Syndrome, multiple sclerosis, brain tumors, ADHD, seizures and acquired brain injuries. In addition, when dealing with learning disabilities it is important to know what else is going on in the brain. It is not only important to know whether or not the child has a reading or math disorder, but it is necessary to understand why it exists. For example, in children who have always had difficulties with reading and writing it is common to find the presence of other language-based disorders. In addition there are many disorders, such as Klinefelter Syndrome and Asperger’s Disorder, where many of the individuals also have learning disabilities (e.g., language disorders are common in Klinefelter Syndrome while nonverbal learning problems are common in Asperger’s Disorder).
It takes a significant amount of training in order to be able to understand these multiply complex disorders and the issues that are often involved. The training of most school psychologists and many clinical psychologists is insufficient and therefore will not provide you, the consumer, with the information you need to know in order to understand the issues that you are dealing with and the steps you need to take to help resolve them. In some instances cost is a factor that determines who you will go to for an evaluation. While the neuropsychological evaluation can appear costly and you will probably pay less if you have an evaluation completed by other than a neuropsychologist (although this is not necessarily the case), you need to consider that you are making a healthcare decision and that cutting corners is not necessarily in your best interest. As a neuropsychologist I am trained to evaluate how the brain is working. I will work with you to obtain reimbursement for out-of-network services through your insurer.
Why consider a neuro-psychological evaluation?
Results provide useful information to aid in diagnosing childhood and adult neurological conditions, particularly when neurological examinations and laboratory tests are inconclusive.
Test results will establish a baseline of current functioning that can be used as a marker to assess the progress of pharmacological, surgical, and rehabilitation efforts as well as determine the course of cerebral dysfunction and recovery.
Neuropsychological testing can help in planning and developing remedial education, rehabilitation and vocational programs for individuals with neurological or developmental problems.
A neuropsychological evaluation is essential for obtaining school-based services, testing accommodations for college entrance examinations and accommodations in one’s place of employment.