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Neuropsychological assessments are conducted by psychologists, who are full members of the APS College of Clinical Neuropsychologists. Each assessment is tailored to the individual and the referral question. Some common types of assessments are as follows:
Assessment of impact of brain injury for personal injury matters, rehabilitation and return to work. People suffer a wide range of conditions which affect how well their brain works. This may be as a result of illness (e.g. Meningitis), a disease process (such as a brain tumour or aneurysm), or as a result of an injury. The assessment is important in assessing how much someone has recovered, and how any persisting problems will impact on resuming normal activities.
It will also guide treatment, helping identify strengths to use, and resources available to compensate with weaknesses. The information can be used by the individual and their family to help understand changes in thinking, by medical rehabilitation specialists to help direct treatment, by employers to help safe return to work and by legal representatives and insurance companies to help quantify impairment.
These assessments involve testing areas that are specifically affected by common types of dementing illnesses, such as Alzheimer’s disease and strokes. The assessment can help identify whether memory complaints are the result of normal aging, secondary to mood or depression, or related to a specific type of dementing illness. This information is helpful in determining the type of treatment that is appropriate and to evaluate if medication is helping.
These assessments are used to help a medical practitioner, usually a Neurologist or Psychiatrist, to help diagnose problems. We have many ways of measuring brain function, such as EEG (measuring electrical activity), MRI scans (measuring structure of brain), SPECT scans (measuring blood flow and metabolism) and medical examination (physical symptoms), and each of these contributes something to the overall picture. The neuropsychological assessment contributes a measure of how well each area is functioning, and also helps identify any other psychological factors that may be contributing to the presentation (e.g. depression, Post traumatic Stress Disorder).
These assessments are directly assess a person’s cognitive ability to make decisions in specific areas (e.g. regarding lifestyle and placement issues, treatment issues, financial issues, fitness to stand trial or to give legal instruction). They are often used by Trustees, Guardianship Tribunals or Legal Professionals to help protect the interests of those involved.
It is often important to monitor changes in thinking over time. This is common for example when someone has mild weaknesses in memory, not severe enough to warrant a diagnosis of dementia. By tracking the profile over time, we can see whether it is changing. These assessments are also used by Neurosurgeons when they are considering candidates for surgery. They need to know if the changes are severe enough to warrant surgery, and if they are getting worse over time. We also use the information to predict who will be most likely to perform well after certain surgery (e.g. for Parkinson’s disease or Epilepsy).