Frequently Asked Questions:

​General questions about neuropsychology


When might a neuropsychological evaluation be needed?

  • Neuropsychological evaluations are often warranted when an individual is experiencing significant difficulties in one or more areas of neurocognitive functioning.  This may include (but may not be limited to) difficulties in attention and concentration, learning and memory, language functioning, visuospatial functioning, executive functioning, motor functioning, and/or adaptive functioning (i.e., life skills).  Symptoms related to or changes in personality and emotional functioning may also be present.

    In children, evaluations are typically pursued when a child is struggling to function appropriately at home, at school, and/or in social settings.  Letters and notes home from teachers are often an indicator that an evaluation may be beneficial.

    In adults an older adults, evaluations are often sought when an individual is struggling to function in their day-to-day life, such as at home, in relationships with others, and/or at work.

    For any age, evaluations may be pursued when there is a known cause (e.g., a brain injury) or when there is an unknown or not-yet-determined cause (e.g., possible dementia, possible ADHD, etc.).  Neuropsychological evaluations can help to characterize one's neurocognitive strengths and weaknesses in both such types of cases and help with determining a diagnosis when one has not yet been identified.

What is the difference between a psychological evaluation and a neuropsychological evaluation?

  • Psychological evaluations typically include measurement of personality and emotional functioning and intellectual functioning.  Neuropsychological evaluations typically include measurement of personality and emotional functioning and also of intellectual functioning as well, but they also include measurement of attention and concentration, academic achievement (as needed), learning and memory, language functioning, visuospatial functioning, executive functioning, motor functioning, and adaptive functioning.

Why is a neuropsychological evaluation needed?  Can’t we just do a brain scan?

  • In some cases, neuroimaging is all that is necessary to confirm a diagnosis and determine what may be causing neurocognitive impairment.  In other cases, neuroimaging may not be sufficient in determining whether a disorder is present, or what might be causing one's neurocognitive difficulties.

    ​That's where neuropsychology comes in -- helping to determine what impairments may be present, the severity of any such impairments, and the most likely underlying cause(s) of such impairments.

    Neuropsychological evaluations also help to determine how much of an impact a disorder or disease process may be having on one’s day-to-day life and what adjustments may be made to help alleviate or accommodate for this impact.

What is measured in a neuropsychological evaluation?

  • Multiple areas of neurocognitive functioning are measured as part of a neuropsychological evaluation.  Click here to learn more about what would be measured in a neuropsychological evaluation for children/teens, adults, and older adults.

What if I have been tested before?  Can I (or should I) be tested again?

  • Re-evaluations are sometimes warranted, particularly when additional neurocognitive concerns have arisen since a prior evaluation and/or when neurocognitive concerns have remained despite the implementation of recommendations and/or accommodations given via a previous evaluation.  Individuals can be re-tested once at least six months (preferably at least twelve months) have passed since their prior evaluation.

Aren’t there computerized or blood tests that can be used for diagnosing?  Why is a full neuropsychological evaluation necessary?

  • While there are some computerized tests, blood tests, etc. which may provide information that can help with diagnostic clarification, a full neuropsychological evaluation allows the consideration of multiple potential underlying causes of neurocognitive difficulties -- including those which may not be measured by other tests.  Additionally, a full neuropsychological evaluation can help determine one's individualized pattern of strengths and weaknesses which may be used to help guide treatment plans.

How can a neuropsychological evaluation tell whether I have dementia (e.g., Alzheimer's disease, vascular dementia, etc.) or just "normal aging"?

  • A neuropsychological evaluation includes a comparison between a patient’s performance on various measures of neurocognitive functioning and what level of performance would be expected given their age and educational background (this is called normative data).  This comparison between the patient’s performance and that of the “normative data” will help determine whether an individual is experiencing normal aging or is experiencing an underlying dementia process.

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