Epilepsy Talk

Exactly what IS Neuropsychology? | February 10, 2017

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 from 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 63!)

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 stories, 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:


Academic skills

Intellectual functioning

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

Visual-spatial organization

Visual-motor coordination

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.”

For me, it was a real eye-opener!


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  1. On Jan. 31st I went to osu hosp. they told me I would be there 3-5 day,s I was there onny over night. they gave me an eeg and want me to seizure to get a good reading, they stoped giveing me some of my med,s. I want through hell that night between 10;00pm to a little after one the next morning they stopped. They want to see why I,m haveing headachs before I seizure, They are tring me on magnesium oxide. For now to see If I have migrain head,s or not.


    Comment by Michele Metzger — February 10, 2017 @ 11:48 PM

  2. Michele, research shows that Depacon (Valproate) and Topamax (Topiramate) are effective in treating migraines and epilepsy.

    And each has FDA approval for treating them together. Depakote (Divalproex Sodium) also works for both, creating a therapeutic “two-fer.”

    There are also several other anti-epileptic drugs that have also been shown to lessen migraine headaches – such as Neurontin (Gabapentin), Keppra ( Levetiracetam) and Zonegran (Zonisamide). However, the dose of AEDs in the treatment of migraines is usually lower than that used for epilepsy.

    You might be interested in this article:

    Epilepsy & Migraines — Kissing Cousins



    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — February 11, 2017 @ 9:14 AM

  3. Had 3 testing the past! The first 2 were prior to surgery and testing post surgery. The last surgery they told me I would have trouble with recall of names and numbers. Post-surg. Test I kept getting confused and was slow. And they were right my recall of memorization of numbers was bad. The last testing lasted 2 hours I kept having seizures they were nice and it was a group of redundant questions! They stopped!


    Comment by red2robi — February 11, 2017 @ 10:38 AM

    • I feel it is helpful for surgery and patients that have seizures for along period of time. Ex. 30 years


      Comment by red2robi — February 11, 2017 @ 10:52 AM

      • I’ll agree with that. I too had surgery 26 yr’s ago & since, as long as I take my medication daily and eat well, majority of the time I am seizure free.


        Comment by CMouse — March 17, 2017 @ 1:45 PM

    • I also had trouble, got confused and totally “flunked” the numbers and figures.

      Happily, I did NOT have any seizures at the time!


      Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — February 11, 2017 @ 2:42 PM

  4. I find it hard to believe that your memory and processing skill,are below normal in light of your detailed and focused writing for epilepsy talk.com. You must have developed very effective compensating skills.

    I know that in my case my short term memory was severely impaired after a craniotomy and consequent focal epilepsy. I suspect Dilantin impairs mental acuity as well. However, at 49, some 20 years after brain surgery, I graduated with a Masters in Accounting and became a licensed CPA. I worked as an auditor which required absorbing lots of information prior to each new auditing assignment. Ironically I cannot remember numbers and find it difficult to understand and remember new concepts. However, once I do understand and remember them they become long term memories which I retain for many years. This meant I spent much longer studying for new assignments than my colleagues (who never knew that I was epileptic) but it also meant that I became adept at writing mnemonics and summary sheets of information to use as a ready reference source. I can’t remember birthdays or phone numbers either but again summary sheets are very valuable.

    Retiring presented new challenges but that is another topic!


    Comment by Michael — February 11, 2017 @ 2:10 PM

  5. Michael, you asked how I became such a detailed and focused writer? The same way you became a successful CPA.

    Focus, time and research, research, research.

    Without the research, the articles would have no validity, nor would I be able to write.

    But once I know what I’m writing and give myself time to process, I’m off and running. Just like your work as an auditor which I am in awe of.


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — February 11, 2017 @ 2:49 PM

  6. Thank you for sharing this information. I would like this testing. I would like to know which side or where in the brain I have deficits.


    Comment by Karla Baye — February 13, 2017 @ 10:50 AM

  7. I found it very illuminating. Not necessarily where the brain damage was, but the extent of cognitive and memory loss. And then the exercises to improve them.


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — February 13, 2017 @ 11:20 AM

  8. Hi, I’ve taken a few of these tests over the years and the Drs. Told me not to worry about them. As long as you are not doing anything critical don’t get to worried about the test. Most of us with this condition have short term memory issues, so we tend to forget things or our recall is somewhat slow. Just don’t worry about it and move on to the next thing. He did recommend puzzles, Candy Crush, word find, study a language at my leisure. No pressure. Just stimulate the brain.


    Comment by lisaw95 — February 13, 2017 @ 10:00 PM

  9. Lisa, you’re right. I think brain stimulation is the key.

    If you’re interested in more “brain games,” you might want to look at:

    Memory games to boost your brain



    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — February 14, 2017 @ 9:14 AM

  10. Extremely interesting, an eye opener.
    I wish we had known this when our daughter , who died from SUDEP, was alive.
    My husband and I have spent the last five years doing research and bringinning awareness to this debilitating disease. For more information go to http://www.ninascourage.org
    Her beautiful and courageous story
    is available on Amazon


    Comment by Nadia Davies — February 19, 2017 @ 11:33 PM

  11. Welcome Nadia. I’m honored to “meet” you and admire your work immensely.


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — February 20, 2017 @ 2:07 PM

  12. When I went to osu, they said what I had was not a seizure’They didn,t say I wrote down what the aura seizure,s you had wrote down it look,s the same as a seizure.


    Comment by Michele Metzger — February 20, 2017 @ 7:38 PM

  13. That would probably be Psychogenic Non-Epileptic Seizures – (PNES) or Physiologic Non-Epileptic Seizures (NES).

    Michele, you might want to take a look at:

    Epilepsy Versus “Pseudo-Seizures”



    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — February 20, 2017 @ 8:51 PM

  14. Kohs Block test
    wisconsin card test
    I had to remember two or three stories I was read the beginning of session
    motor control (FTT)
    Word memory test

    Thankfully they did not do the pegboard test!

    They did give me the MMIP-II to take home and send in. That cut two hours off the session. I was booked for 6 hours if I remember.

    This was the last step before they met and made the decision on if I would have the surgery or not.

    Yeah it’s a handful. Just make sure you are rested before you go in for the evaluation.


    Comment by Travis — February 21, 2017 @ 1:40 AM

  15. Boy Travis, you remember things I (thankfully) forgot.

    So much for my cognitive abilities!

    But I did not get the MMIP-II to take home. Just a prescription for some “exercises”.


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — February 21, 2017 @ 9:17 AM

  16. I looked up both seizure,s like you said, There both like aura,s.


    Comment by Michele Metzger — February 21, 2017 @ 11:16 AM

  17. I went to the libary and made a copy of the artigol, you went me to read about arua,s


    Comment by Michele Metzger — February 23, 2017 @ 12:07 AM

  18. Good Michele.


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — February 23, 2017 @ 9:14 AM

  19. I do believe these aruas or my new seizure,s.


    Comment by Michele Metzger — February 23, 2017 @ 11:56 AM

  20. As a long term mental health patient whose epilepsy was actually picked up by my psychiatrist and his pushing my gp finally got me to neurology and diagnosis. Further complications saw my neurologist suggest co- morbided epilepsy with NEAD so the team of psychiatry and neuorology request a psychological assessment. Psychology have suggested a group couse called Emotional Regulation run in our area which mixes cbt and dbt techniques and coping mechanisms. This is on top of both anti convulsants and anti psychotics. Im willing to try anything and all the help support ive so far is great


    Comment by Kristi — March 28, 2017 @ 2:49 PM

    • Wow. What a long road you’ve been down. But it seems to have worked and it’s wonderful that you’ve come out feeling so positive.



      Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — March 29, 2017 @ 9:26 AM

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    About the author

    Phylis Feiner Johnson

    Phylis Feiner Johnson

    I've been a professional copywriter for over 35 years. I also had epilepsy for decades. My mission is advocacy; to increase education, awareness and funding for epilepsy research. Together, we can make a huge difference. If not changing the world, at least helping each other, with wisdom, compassion and sharing.

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    Phylis Feiner Johnson

    Phylis Feiner Johnson

    I've been a professional copywriter for over 35 years. I also had epilepsy for decades. My mission is advocacy; to increase education, awareness and funding for epilepsy research. Together, we can make a huge difference. If not changing the world, at least helping each other, with wisdom, compassion and sharing.

    View Full Profile →

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