What is a Neuropsychological Assessment and what are its benefits?
Neuropsychological testing is a method of measuring and identifying cognitive impairment and level of functioning in individuals. It provides quantifiable information about important aspects of brain functioning including:
- Short-term and long-term memory
- Ability to learn new skills and to solve problems
- Attention, concentration, and distractibility
- The ability to use logic and abstract reasoning
- The ability to understand or express oneself with language
- Visual-spatial reasoning and visual-motor coordination
- Planning and organizational abilities
As an additional benefit, a neuropsychological assessment could provide important information about eligibility for:
- Enrollment in “gifted” educational programs
- Accommodation (e.g. extended time) when taking standardized tests such SAT, ACT, GRE, CMAT, etc.
- Programs such as Supplemental Security Income and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI).
A proper neuropsychological assessment also integrates information from other sources (schools, medical records, self-report personality and symptom severity measures, etc.)
How is the assessment performed?
I utilize a “flexible battery” approach to neuropsychological assessment. First, tests are specifically chosen to shed light on the referral question. Next, as the patient completes the testing specific areas of deficit which appear are more fully explored as are strengths which might be uncovered. This approach provides the best possible picture of an individual’s brain functioning and ability to manage important life activities (working, learning, relating well to others, etc.).
Unlike many neurophysiologists, I perform all of the testing myself. Other practitioners typically use less educated staff members to do the actual test administration. By personally administering the tests, I am able to have better insight into the reason a test score is low (inability to perform the function vs. simple inattention or loss of motivation for example) providing a richer and more useful assessment for you.
How long does a Neuropsychological Assessment take?
To gather this kind of comprehensive information, a neuropsychological assessment does take a significant amount of time. Typically, the patient and/or parents (in a child or adolescent case) are seen individually and a comprehensive history is taken. A testing protocol is designed, which may take one to three testing sessions lasting between one to two hours.
Once the evaluation is completed, the parents of the child, or the patient, is seen for a “feedback” session in which all results of the testing, and all recommendations made, are discussed at length. Finally, the patient is provided with a 5 to 10 page report outlining the results of the evaluation. This document is particularly helpful to other individuals working with the patient including doctors, teachers, lawyers and other decision makers.
Is Neuropsychological testing cost-effective?
Neuropsychological testing is very cost-effective. A typical neuropsychological battery of tests can cost between $750.00 to $1,500 depending on the scope of the testing. Compare that to the typical cost of neurological imaging. Pet scans can cost between $3,000 and $6,000. An MRI can cost anywhere from $2,500 to $13,000.
Consider also the different objectives of neuropsychological testing and neurological imaging. The latter typically provides information on structural and physiological aspects of the brain. Neuropsychological testing provides an accurate picture of a patient’s ongoing cognitive functioning. This provides more useful, “real world” information.
In addition, using neuropsychological tests early in the diagnostic process can clarify the treatment planning saving money by avoiding unnecessary treatment and/or diagnostic imaging. Neuropsychological testing provides good value relative to other ways to investigate the brain.
What about insurance reimbursement?
Neuropsychological testing is considered by most insurance companies as a medical diagnostic procedure and not a mental health issue. Therefore, insurance companies tend to reimburse at about the same rate as for other medical testing.