Frequently Asked Questions

What is a neuropsychological assessment?

 

Neuropsychological assessment evaluates the person’s brain functioning.

 

There are limitations in CT and MRI scanning, in that while these may show what the brain looks like, they are unable to tell us how well the brain is working in our every day lives. This is where neuropsychological assessment can help.

 

Assessment allows the neuropsychologist to evaluate whole brain functioning, to evaluate the individual’s strengths and weaknesses, and provides diagnostic clarity. Together, this information allows the neuropsychologist to formulate a diagnosis and generate recommendations to inform a treatment plan. If requested, the neuropsychologist can consult with the individual’s other medical and treatment providers to help inform the care plan and set individualized goals based on the assessment findings.

 

The exact tests used as part of the neuropsychological assessment may vary depending on the question for the neuropsychologist and the goal of the evaluation. The tests utilized are not invasive, but use paper/pencil, blocks, memorization, computer tests, etc.

 

What is a neuropsychologist?

 

A neuropsychologist is a licensed psychologist with advanced (two year) postdoctoral training and specialization in understanding the structure and function of the brain in relation to specific psychological and cognitive processes and behaviors. 

 

Goals of neuropsychological assessment may include:

 

  • Identifying strengths and weaknesses on formal assessment

  • To provide differential diagnostic information and inform treatment (e.g., possible Alzheimer’s disease vs. normal aging)

  • To establish a “baseline.” Unfortunately, when an individual has an injury (e.g., TBI, stroke, seizure, medical accident under anesthesia) or has questions regarding aging and possible cognitive decline, most do not have a neuropsychological assessment at baseline to compare their current performance. “Baseline” assessment can document comprehensive neuropsychological skills before problems arise.

  • Documentation of change / serial assessment. After a baseline has been established, the neuropsychologist can track the person’s progression across time points, in the event of future cognitive decline or improvement after recovery from injury.

  • Creating treatment plans using the individual’s strengths and weaknesses to inform specific recommendations (vocational, academic, or personal recommendations or accommodations support).

 

What is involved in the neuropsychological assessment?

 

  • The neuropsychologist will interview the individual, and possibly family members, and teachers, as appropriate.

  • Formal neuropsychological assessment will include “testing” the individual’s performance across multiple cognitive domains. This may take several hours and can be split up into multiple testing days as needed.

  • The neuropsychologist wants the individual to do well and to do his or her best, so he or she will be encouraged to take breaks and work at the most comfortable pace.

  • After the assessment is complete, the neuropsychologist will carefully score and interpret the data. This can only be skillfully done by a trained neuropsychologist with advanced postdoctoral specialization in neuropsychology.

  • Thereafter, the neuropsychologist will generate an individualized neuropsychological report. This is usually 15-30 pages and includes review of personal, developmental, social, and medical history, data results, findings, impressions, and recommendations tailored specifically for the individual's strengths/weaknesses and goals for the evaluation. 

  • The individual will be provided with a copy of this report. If needed, a copy of the report may be sent to doctors, mental health providers, school, or elsewhere, but only with your request and written permission.

 

Common referrals / Dr. Murphy's areas of specialitiy:

  • Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)

  • Concussion (mTBI)

  • Stroke, seizure disorder

  • Brain tumor

  • Multiple Sclerosis (MS)

  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)

  • HIV

  • Lyme disease

  • Hormonal dysfunction

  • Sleep disorder (i.e., insomnia, narcolepsy, sleep apnea, among others)

  • Neurodegenerative dementia conditions (i.e., Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, Frontotemporal dementia (FTD), among others)

  • Emotional distress / Psychiatric conditions (i.e., depression, anxiety, posttraumatic stress disorder, sleep disorders, chronic pain, among others)

  • Capacity assessment

  • Learning disability assessment

 

The tests may assess the following areas:

 

  • Attention

  • Working Memory

  • Mental Processing Speed and Reaction Time

  • Language Skills

  • Visuospatial Skills

  • Learning and Memory

  • Executive Functioning

  • Motor Functioning

  • Academic Achievement

  • Capacity Assessment

  • Emotion, Mood, and Behavior

 

How should I prepare for my assessment?

 

  • You will be mailed or emailed forms prior to your appointment, which may need to be completed by you or a family member/caregiver prior to the evaluation. Please bring these completed forms with you to your appointment. Incomplete forms may lengthen the interview time and increase the cost of the evlaution.

  • If requested, please bring medical records and/or school records.

  • If you have ever had a neuropsychological or psychological assessment and/or educational testing, please bring these report(s) with you to your appointment.

  • It is often helpful to bring a family member or friend to the appointment to provide additional information about your daily functioning. This individual will meet with Dr. Murphy at the earlier portion of the evaluation and is otherwise free to leave after, unless you require their assistance.

  • Bring reading glasses, hearing aids, and a snack.

  • Get a good night sleep prior to your appointment.

  • Plan to arrive early to allow time for traffic and parking.

 

 

Neuropsychology in the News

Courtney L. Murphy, Ph.D.

Neuropsychologist

Licensed Psychologist

PSY26630

 

(650) 257-0595

Courtney@courtneymurphyphd.com

© 2015 by Courtney L. Murphy, Ph.D.