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A neuropsychological evaluation consists of a thorough diagnostic interview with the patient, a review of the medical record, and the administration of tests to measure brain function. Such exams make up a critical component of care for many patients with neurological symptoms and disorders. The results of neuropsychological assessments can help clarify a diagnosis, guide a doctor in determining the most appropriate treatment, evaluate how a disease or disorder is progressing, and assess a patient's recovery.
Unlike imaging exams, such as CT or MRI (which show changes in the structure of the brain) or electroencephalography (EEG, which can identify electrical abnormalities in the brain), a neuropsychological assessment examines how well the brain is working based on an individual's responses to or pattern of responses on formal tests of cognitive functioning, such as measures of memory, attention, perception, and problem-solving.
The Weill Cornell Neuropsychology Service is an outpatient program of the Department of Neurology. Our staff members are highly experienced in the evaluation of patients with a wide variety of neurologic disorders affecting cognition (thought processes). Neuropsychological evaluations can be useful following a concussion, serious brain trauma, stroke, or other neurologic injuries, or when there is a suspicion of a neurodegenerative disorder such as Alzheimer's disease or another type of dementia.
Common Reasons for Evaluation
Our team commonly performs neuropsychological evaluations to:
- Diagnose memory and attention problems
- Distinguish dementia from depression
- Differentiate the signs of normal aging from symptoms of early dementia
- Determine if there are cognitive side effects from toxic exposures, substance abuse, or certain medications
- Evaluate the cognitive impact of seizure disorders
- Assess a person's capacity or level of disability
- Objectively document a person's recovery from a neurologic injury or illness
With neuropsychological testing, our clinicians can generate a better picture of how the patient's thought processes are being affected, and use this information to customize the best course of care.
What Happens During a Neuropsychological Evaluation
The cognitive testing performed during a neuropsychological evaluation is not invasive. For the most part, the patient works one-on-one with an examiner, responding to questions. We use a standard test to assess attention, memory, reasoning, problem-solving, visual-spatial skills, language, motor functions, academic skills, and emotional functioning. The types of tests that we use depend on the question the referring physician is asking. Our specially trained examiners conduct the testing, tailoring the evaluation to each patient's needs.
The length of the evaluation generally ranges from three to six hours and may be conducted over the course of two or more appointments, if necessary. Patients should bring all sensory aides (such as glasses and hearing aids), records from any prior cognitive testing, and a list of current medications to the exam.
How We Use the Test Results
The Weill Cornell Neuropsychology Service offers evaluations that can:
- Diagnose cognitive disorders and inform treatment planning
- Define the patient's strengths and weaknesses
- Objectively document cognitive changes over time
- Evaluate a patient's response to treatment
- Determine the patient's need for assistance with daily activities
We can refer patients to the most appropriate team of neurologists for their continued care, as well as specialists in psychiatry, social work, cognitive rehabilitation, and occupational therapy.
Contact us today to make an appointment or to learn more about the services we offer.