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What Referral Parties Need to Know About Neuropsychological Assessments

Posted on September 4th, 2015 by Don Kunkel

neuropsychologicalDue to the complex nature of Neuropsychological Assessments, referral parties may feel as though they lack information about the service – this could include when to request the exam, the exam process, and the results they can expect.

As a medical discipline, neuropsychology investigates and addresses cognitive issues and injuries. It specifically examines brain damage, brain disease, and – in some cases – severe mental illness. As a specialized Independent Medical Examination (IME), a Neuropsychological Assessment can identify brain disorders and cognitive deficits.

Information that referral parties should know about Neuropsychological Assessments includes:

When to Request a Neuropsychological Assessment

An IME company’s clients can request a Neuropsychological Assessment when an individual experiences adverse effects – such as absent-mindedness and an inability to think clearly – after sustaining a mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI).

Common mTBIs include:

  • Loss of consciousness for less than 30 minutes
  • Post-traumatic amnesia for less than 24 hours
  • Effects, such as confusion and disorientation, associated with a 13-15 rating on the Glasgow Coma Scale

Clients can also request assessments when they believe an individual is suffering from unidentified brain deficits and disorders, such as persistent depression.

What the Assessment Process Involves

The assessment is conducted by a neuropsychologist. A neuropsychologist is a psychologist that specializes in understanding the relationship between the physical brain and behavior.  Because the brain is extremely complex, brain or nervous system disorders can alter an individual’s behavior and cognitive functioning.

The Neuropsychological Assessment includes an interview and the administration of various tests. The tests are normally pencil and paper type tests. Some tests include a portion of self reporting – meaning that they are completed by the individual. But the majority are administered directly by the neuropsychologist or with assistance from a trained and skilled psychometrist.

Neuropsychological tests are standardized, so they are administered and scored in the same way to all individuals repeatedly.  

Test scores are interpreted by comparing the individual’s score to that of healthy individuals with a similar demographic background (i.e., of similar age, education, gender, and/or ethnic background) and to expected levels of functioning.

Therefore, a neuropsychologist is able to determine whether one’s ability on a given task represents a weakness or strength.

Although individual scores are important, the neuropsychologist considers all of the data from the assessment in a holistic way to determine a pattern of cognitive strength and weakness, and understand more about how the individual’s brain is functioning.

On a case by case basis, the tests may include:

  • Problem solving
  • Abstract reasoning
  • Memory functionality
  • Planning and prioritizing
  • Visio-spatial functionality
  • Information processing speed
  • Attention and concentration spans

Individuals who are having a neuropsychological assessment will need to allow enough time (note below) and need to bring any assistive devices they may require to help complete these tests, such as reading glasses.

During validity testing, the person served has the right to be treated with dignity and respect by the assessor and other IME professionals. They will also have the chance to eat snacks and take breaks, as the entire process can last a day or two.

What the Assessment Process Can Achieve

Assessors will compile a detailed report based on their findings. The report may include the diagnosis of a cognitive deficit and even identify abnormal behaviours in an examinee’s central nervous system.

A report may also contain recommendations regarding treatment and rehabilitation, accommodation requirements and/or measures to help the individual resume his or her normal activities of daily living.

Before considering a Neuropsychological Assessment, the referral party should understand this basic information about when to request one, what it entails, and what it can accomplish. For specific information regarding a potential case, it is best to contact your IME service provider.

>> Since 1991, AssessMed has assisted organizations by providing objective IME services across Canada. Contact us today to learn about our suite of CARF-accredited offerings.

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