I never had a clue what neuropsychology was all about. Although it sounded like a good idea.
Then a while ago, I had an assessment. (Mercifully, it was the two-hour test and not the 8-hour version.)
The neuropsychologist I went to had all the records of my last 12 years with my neurologist and it was clear he had done his homework. The question was, did my deficit in memory come from my history of seizures, my previous concussions (one of which was only a month ago) or even age itself? (I thought to myself, geeze, I’m only 59!)
Here’s basically what happened…
First he interviewed me. He wanted to know what I perceived as my problems, a very brief history and my husband was included in order to give his input.
Then, when my husband left, I was given numbers to remember in order and then in reverse. With each succession, more numbers were added to the list.
There was the same exercise with words. Interestingly, about ten minutes after each exercise, I was asked to do it again. But only with the numbers or words that I had remembered from the first time.
I was asked to complete geometric images which became more and more complicated, and my “progress” was timed. There were also words to define and stories to remember after ten minutes’ time. (I did great with the names, places and most of the story, but couldn’t remember any of the numbers to save my life.)
At the end, it was determined that although my EEG had been “clean,” there was further damage to my brain tissue than in my last EEG, two years ago.
The major conclusion was that my memory and processing of information were below normal and to help me get up to speed, the neuropsychologist suggested a 30 hour cognitive computer program called “Posit Science.”
Now for those not “in the know,” (like I was) here’s a brief run-down on exactly what neuropsychological tests are and their purpose…
Neuropsychological tests are a series of measures that identify cognitive impairment and functioning of your brain. An evaluation may be brief or may last several hours. Usually, both easy and difficult tests are given to see how you do on different levels. Some of the tests will be timed, others will not.
The different tests given are to measure different functions. Each is linked to a specific area of the brain. If you do well overall, but do poorly on a few tests that measure the same function, the neuropsychologist knows which area of your brain is not working properly. That area may be where seizures are coming from.
And because the neuropsychologist is a professional within the field of psychology, with special expertise in the science of brain-behavior relationships, he/she is in the rare position to evaluate what’s going on in your brain and how it affects your emotional and physical behaviors.
The tests themselves provide data about the following areas:
Attention, memory, and learning – visual and verbal
Speed of processing
Perceptual and motor abilities
Planning and organization
Problem solving and conceptualization
Emotions, behavior, and personality
The end result is to qualify:
Ability to understand and express language
Attention and processing speed
Short-term and long-term memory
Reasoning and problem-solving ability
Planning, synthesizing, and organizing abilities
Once the evaluation is complete, the neuropsychologist will examine the results of your tests. Those results are compared with the results of people the same age as you who have a similar background.
If you’ve been tested before, the neuropsychologist will compare the new results with your results on earlier tests. He/She then writes a report. If the results show that one area of your brain is not functioning normally, the report will say that. And it may include recommendations for further treatment, for job retraining, or for retesting at a later date.
To me, the beauty of neuropsychology is that it doesn’t just look at the brain, or emotions, or capabilities alone. It looks at the whole neurological system as one, integrated picture.
As Oliver Sacks, the legendary physician, professor of neurology and psychiatry said: “In each human being, things are constantly shifting in their significance, as is the underlying neurophysiological response. Neuronal groups are organized into sheets of brain tissue, called maps, which respond to different kinds of external stimuli — auditory, visual, and tactile — as well as to one another.”
What’s been your experience with neuropsychology? Did you find it helpful? Is there a doctor or resource you would recommend? For me, Dr. Edward J. Murphy, PsyD was terrific. He’s associated with Bryn Mawr Rehab Psychology Associates, in Malvern, PA.