What is neurocognitive testing?
Neurocognitive testing, also known as neuropsychological testing, is a comprehensive evaluation of the patient's cognitive status by specific neurologic domains, i.e., memory, attention, problem solving, language, visuospatial, processing speed motor, and emotion. Testing is mainly comprised of paper and pencil tasks and/or computerized tasks, done in a one-on-one setting. It is physically non-invasive.
Assessing brain function
As the brain controls specific neurologic domains, cognitive skills are often affected by many different types of brain-related health conditions. Accordingly, it is important for physicians and other health care providers to carefully assess the patient's relationship among brain, thought, behavior and mood. Neurocognitive/neuropsychological testing helps to clarify this picture, especially in the context of one's daily living or development.
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When is referral from your doctor appropriate?
Referrals are typically made to diagnose or rule out diseases of the brain. This information also helps to describe the identified condition's impact on the patient's daily functioning. Examples include traumatic brain injury, epilepsy, Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, brain tumor, stroke, Alzheimer's disease and other types of dementia. The information gathered during this assessment will go to your doctor, and he or she will use this information to make decisions regarding your health care.
Some conditions, such as Alzheimer's disease and multiple sclerosis, cause patients to experience memory and thinking difficulties over time. If these types of conditions are diagnosed or suspected, a baseline evaluation with follow-up (usually yearly) may be useful in interpreting possible changes in one's disease condition.
Neurocognitive or neuropsychological testing is also beneficial in tracking progress for patients undergoing rehabilitation and/or to evaluate how effective a certain treatment is for them. Neurocognitive or neuropsychological testing can help in planning educational and vocational programs as well. They can also assist in disability determination or for forensic (medical-legal) uses.
When should I think about having a neurocognitive evaluation?
Difficulties that might indicate the need for an evaluation include:
- Memory loss
- Difficulty communicating (getting the right words out and/or understanding others)
- Attention and concentration problems
- Difficulty planning and organizing
- Changes in spatial skills or visual perception
- Difficulty reading or writing
- Disturbed thinking or confusion
- Increased impulsivity
- Slowed thinking speed
Talk to your doctor if you have any symptoms mentioned above.
During your visit, you will meet with the neuropsychologist. The doctor will ask about your medical history and the specific concerns that brought you to this clinic. The doctor will often spend additional time talking to your spouse, parent, child or other family members who accompany you. You will spend the majority of your appointment working with a psychometrist, who will do the testing with you.
You may be asked to answer questions, read, write or draw. You may also complete measures that will help the doctor understand how your illness or injury affects your mood, personality or coping skills. During the tests, your family members or friends will be asked to wait in the lobby area.
Nature of neurocognitive tests
Unlike the tests you have taken in school, neurocognitive tests do not give you a “pass” or “fail” grade. We will simply ask that you do your best on all of the tests that are presented to you. This will allow us to gather accurate results that best represent how you function in your daily life. Information gathered from these tests helps your doctor know your individual strengths and weaknesses, and provide recommendations for your future care.
Once testing is complete, the neuropsychologist will examine the results. If there has been previous testing, those scores will be compared to the new results. The neuropsychologist will write a report describing the findings and conclusions. The report will be sent to the doctor who referred you within one to three weeks for full evaluation and quicker for a test specific to a certain disease. Please call your doctor for the results.
If you have any questions, please call the UK Neurocognitive Diagnostic Service at 859-323-5661.