Neuropsychological testing, also referred to as neurocognitive testing, is intended to assess various brain functions through a variety of methods employed by duly specialized psychologists. The process involves gathering a wealth of data, both qualitative and quantitative. Data may include medical chart notes, neuroimaging, lab work, discharge summaries, and other existing health records. Relevant data can also include educational history, relational functioning, occupational history, and many other domains of a person’s life.
Neuropsychological testing can reveal and clarify the nature of deficits in areas such as memory, attention, processing speed, visual reasoning, spatial awareness, executive function, auditory processing, verbal reasoning, oral expression, psychomotor coordination, and many others. Various disorders, both psychiatric and neurologic, have specific signatures, or profiles, of neuropsychological features. These profiles can help with differential diagnosis and with narrowing recommendations for the examined patient. Neuropsychological testing can inform medical treatments and specify the scope of pharmacologic intervention which may be most appropriate for a given patient. In children, neuropsychological testing can clarify developmental delays or atypical features in brain function which may be of consequence to the child and ultimately be treated, accommodated, or otherwise helped while the person is young. For adults, neurocognitive examination can offer answers to questions about suspected abnormalities, which could be a commonly known disorder such as attention-deficit disorder, or perhaps a relatively more uncommon condition such as dissociative fugue. Even in adults, developmental data is often collected, particularly when assessing a person for neurodivergent disorders such as autism spectrum disorder.
For older adults, neuropsychological testing is one of the most useful tools for discerning between normal, age-related cognitive decline and neurocognitive disorders (dementias). The course of dementia, the changes in functional capacity, and the progression of neurodegeneration can be tracked by directly testing a patient’s faculties across time. By doing this, the patient’s
care can be updated and responsive to the changes that occur throughout the course of pathology. Challenging decisions, such as program placement, estate planning, power of attorney, and partially dependent or medically assisted living arrangements may be informed by neuropsychological evaluation.