Epilepsy Talk

Exactly what IS Neuropsychology? | September 6, 2020

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 had been only a month ago) or even age itself? (I thought to myself, geeze, I’m only 68!)

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:

Language

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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Resources:

http://www.uwhealth.org/neurology/what-is-a-neuropsychologist/12769

http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/317596-overview

http://www.apa.org/ed/graduate/specialize/neuro.aspx

http://www.webmd.com/brain/neuropsychological-tests#1

http://www.neurodevelop.com/neuropsychological_testing

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clinical_neuropsychology

 


26 Comments »

  1. This sounds like a test I had done years ago before i was a teenager, yet nothing like that or this as you mention, I have ever had done in the last 45 to 50 years. I say this should be done on people with seizures after age 21 at least 2 times when you get it done, 1 time with on the AED’s & the other time with NO AED’s in your system. Don’t think one would ever have a seizure while off any drugs after 2 to 3 weeks being clean of any AED’s in the Blood Brain Barrier / BBB. Then if while no drugs are in a BBB, the doctors should be able to detect better where the weak areas of a human brain is needing the help or the CURE to end all seizures. For me at 60 years old, I would like to know just HOW all the AED’s I have taken since 7 months old has made my brain weaker, as I know back in 2006 I was off the AED’s for about 40 days & I FELT SUPER GREAT, until the worst GRAND MAL happened to me in my life, & I do not blame NOT TAKING DRUGS for that but the MSG’s in the little bit of food that caused that GRAND MAL I had on 11-19-2012. Also this test can & SHOULD BE tested on anyone without the chemicals & preservatives of MSG’s & ASPARTAME being in the BBB as well. THAT will tell more than what the lack of AED’s would tell, because I am smarter than any average person, as you can never tell anyone who drinks & eats MSG’s & ASPARTAME’s who believe they are not being hurt by them, but they will take any drug to relieve them from a headache or something else in their regular & daily lifestyle. Oh well, life goes on.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by James D — September 6, 2020 @ 2:23 PM

  2. I agree. I think it’s a good test and an under used tool.

    Like

    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — September 6, 2020 @ 3:02 PM

  3. I’ve had several of them. Like before my brain surgery and after. Changing meds. The last one I took my memory was so bad because I was having so many seizures it was very emotional. I won’t take them anymore. I bet if I did take one it would be totally different then it was at that time,because my seizures are under control and things are just better all around.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Teresa Daniel — September 6, 2020 @ 3:39 PM

  4. Well as you known Teresa, it’s just an indicator. Now that your seizures are under control, I’m sure you’d do magnificently.

    (My seizures ARE under control, but I “scored” terribly. Rather than being depressed, I was embarrassed.)

    Like

    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — September 6, 2020 @ 4:30 PM

  5. While nearly all seizure medications have warning information alerting patients of all the potential side effects of the medications, memory lose seems to be the common denominator of all the medications prescribed for seizures.
    Therefore, it would be too obvious to see the long term results of taking the seizure medications causing memory difficulty.
    In this case, Neuro-psychological evaluation seem to be a very good idea to find out if seizures lead to psychological disorder & how far your brain has been damaged by the long term side effects of the seizure medications & find remedy to the whole disaster.
    Thank you for sharing the interesting experience.
    Gerrie

    Liked by 3 people

    Comment by Gerrie — September 6, 2020 @ 7:22 PM

  6. Do focal ones damage the brain too?

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Hetty Eliot — September 7, 2020 @ 12:35 AM

    • I wonder bc my memory is so bad 😥 I took one of those computer memory tests but I can’t remember how I did 😖 My memory has gotten bad over the last 10 years (I am 32). I didn’t know I was having partial seizures until two years ago and started AED. It’s depressing because I was a very good student, now I forget simple words and names for things.

      Liked by 2 people

      Comment by Hetty Eliot — September 7, 2020 @ 12:38 AM

      • Over time, repeated temporal lobe seizures can cause the part of the brain that’s responsible for learning and memory (hippocampus) to shrink.

        Brain cell loss in this area may cause memory problems.

        Any type of epileptic seizure could potentially affect your memory, either during or after a seizure.

        If you have lots of seizures, memory problems might happen more often. Some people have generalized seizures that affect all of the brain.

        Liked by 2 people

        Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — September 7, 2020 @ 10:26 AM

    • Obviously, if the brain is functioning right without ANY dysfunctional interruptions, there shouldn’t be any kind of seizures.
      Therefore, even though I’m NOT Neurologist but I would think every seizure is going to be causing more brain damage unless medical intervention interrupted, restricted or eradicated the potential risks & main roots of the damaged nerves of the brain causing the seizures.
      Therefore the case may NOT apply to all patients equally but the side effects of surgical procedures & medications to cure or eradicate the damaged nerves causing the seizures may end up causing memory difficulties, as indicated in all seizure medication warning labels.
      To minimize/avoid the memory lose making negative impact on your daily life, it becomes very important to write reminder notes & post them around your house/office where you can easily see the notes or mark the calendar in your computer/Iphone/IPod with reminders to pop out whenever you set the timing of your calendar.
      Best wishes!
      Gerrie

      Liked by 3 people

      Comment by Gerrie — September 7, 2020 @ 4:08 PM

      • Gerrie, thanks for the excellent clarification and tips. You’re the BEST!

        Memory Tips You (Hopefully) Won’t Forget! https://epilepsytalk.com/2020/02/01/memory-tips-you-hopefully-wont-forget/

        Liked by 2 people

        Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — September 7, 2020 @ 5:20 PM

      • Yeah, I wouldn’t be surprised if this is what happened to me over so many untreated years. And I’m still a space case. Lamictal eliminated the major partials that really crippled my life, but I still zone out constantly. I feel like I’m channel surfing but it’s the same show on every channel. Alarms and notes are definitely my best friends, along with a day of the week pillbox after I accidentally overdosed and had to go to the ER bc I forgot I already took my meds. At work I have to be very up front with my manager that I need everything spelled out and written down.

        Liked by 2 people

        Comment by Hetty Eliot — September 7, 2020 @ 5:32 PM

      • everything you say makes sense to me as I have thought much of the same things you mentioned. Now if all who are taking these AED’s, especially the GENERIC names of them, 90% or more of those drugs are going to have METALS in them. I know myself how I felt having taken drugs of ANY TYPE from OTC drugs that have METALS in them. I felt & would still get depressed, anxious a lot, frustrated & more and there is a TOTALLY DIFFERENT FEELING I have when those drugs from the OTC drugs to any AED’s that do have the metals are NOT taken to where ANGER, FRUSTRATIONS, ANXIETY & FEAR are not the feelings you get with AED’s having none of them to very little of these toxic metals that are barely found in BRAND NAME AED’s. The Brain Never Lies,, so test your out with any drugs you take once YOU KNOW after reading the labels just WHAT IS IN THEM. http://www.dailymed.nlm.nih.gov << THAT is my safe brain guide that allows me 1st to know what is in a drug / AED's before I say YES, as I am going to look up one now that I may SUGGEST & ask if I can take it to my neurologist, before I say yes to a VNS, that now may cost me $8,000.00 OUT OF POCKET or more to get . Then doctors appointments later & so on. Sure, I'm a number & an ATM machine.

        Liked by 1 person

        Comment by James D — September 10, 2020 @ 2:07 PM

      • Vagus Nerve Stimulation…Is it for YOU? https://epilepsytalk.com/2011/03/13/vagus-nerve-stimulation%e2%80%a6is-it-for-you/

        TNS vs. VNS – NO SURGERY! https://epilepsytalk.com/2020/06/18/tns-vs-vns-no-surgery/

        Like

        Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — September 10, 2020 @ 2:41 PM

      • James, Thank you for your understanding.
        While I’m NOT aware nor sure of the metallic or chemical make up & contents of the generic vs. brand name AEDs, I would think taking any kind of medication will certainly going to affect our blood chemistry for good or bad reaction to affect our physical & psychological stability.
        In the end, the alternative becomes controlling the seizures, knowing the potential risks of the medication side effects one is willing to tolerate.
        Gerrie

        Liked by 1 person

        Comment by Gerrie — September 11, 2020 @ 4:09 PM

  7. Phylis: ‘…memory and processing of information were below normal.’ Memory maybe, otherwise from your writing you process information extremely well.

    I did the 8-hour (2-day) test. A couple of days later they did more slightly different tests and froze one side of the brain then the other the next day. And I fell in love with my neuropsychologist.

    But don’t tell her; I never did.

    Liked by 2 people

    Comment by philamisan — September 7, 2020 @ 4:43 AM

  8. Ironically, this is my son’s career. When I had my seizures last year (first in the grocery store and then in the ER a few hours later) he was so helpful interpreting the reports for me and calming me down. These were my first and only seizures at age 65! He said he was glad his PhD wasn’t in brain tumours or strokes. I’ve been in Dilantin since then and my neurologist now would like me to change to another med because of potential side effects. It’s my decision if and when to change as I’ll lose my drivers license again for at least 5 months. He has suggested Lamictal, Vimpat or Keppra. His first choice is Lamictal. Vimpat is apparently expensive and not covered by our public health care. Just wondering if anyone can give me any info on experiences with these meds. Thanks so much. 💜

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Cathy Urlacher — September 7, 2020 @ 11:17 AM

    • Lamical has been a fabulous success with me. Although, at first, it made me crazy/hyper, once I settled down and changed my bedtime dosage (to earlier), all was fine.

      99% seizure-free for 10+ years!

      Liked by 2 people

      Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — September 7, 2020 @ 11:22 AM

    • Cathy,
      I started out with Lamictal but failed to control my grand mal seizures therefore I switched to Dilantin.
      Dilantin seems to have worked for a while but started being ineffective, wearing out to control my seizures.
      Therefore, I ended up adding Keppra to Dilantin hoping to control my seizures.
      So far, I’m NOT satisfied neither convinced with the mixed cocktail, failing to control my seizures.
      But my Neurologist thinks I’m expecting too much & too soon therefore suggests to wait a little bit longer for my “blood chemistry” to adjust & adapt to the medications to make effective impact in controlling my seizures.
      Obviously, the case may NOT apply to all of us but there’s no magic cure to control seizures.
      Therefore, it’s always about trying one medication or surgical procedure after another, until finding effective method to control the seizures.
      Gerrie

      Liked by 2 people

      Comment by Gerrie — September 7, 2020 @ 5:12 PM

    • My husband had Vimpat added about 4 months ago to his other seizure medications he currently is taken. He has been on keppra for quite a while along with two other medications. The vimpat medication is expensive. We are using a 90 day mail order that helps but we’re still paying about 775.00 for the 90 supply. You can call the manufacturer and based on your income you may be eligible for assistance. I think the Keppra has made him very shaky.
      I hope this helps.

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by Peggy Beller — September 10, 2020 @ 1:19 AM

      • Peggy,
        Your case is classical example why I’ve major problem accepting the integrity of BIG PHARMA & the whole healthcare system, looting patients to death.
        The hospital bills I get after each seizure I ended up having to spend few hours at the hospital makes me feel like I’m being robbed by the establishments legally crafted, entitled & permitted to take advantage of my medical hardships but NOT interested in my wellbeing.

        As you can see Vimpat seems too expensive for seizure medication which may or may NOT control your husband’s seizures.
        That’s what makes it difficult to justify the financial hardships for medications that has to be effective yet.
        Therefore, I suggest you to seek help from Epilesy Foundation & community organizations advocating for healthcare assistance.
        As for Keppra, it can cause hallucinating rage & disorienting side effects in stressful times & conditions, provoking more seizures.
        Sometimes, I wonder if Keppra was manufactured to destabilize the mindset or prevent seizures.
        Therefore, I apply extra caution whenever possible as long as I’m staying with Keppra to find out if the benefits outweigh the risks of the medicine.
        I hope your husband have less reaction to Keppra’s side effects than me.
        Best wishes.

        Gerrie

        Liked by 1 person

        Comment by Gerrie — September 10, 2020 @ 10:00 AM

  9. Keppra — What People Are Saying

    https://epilepsytalk.com/2020/05/21/keppra-what-people-are-saying/

    Like

    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — September 7, 2020 @ 11:24 AM

  10. How can I find one of these doctors?

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by leica2015 — September 7, 2020 @ 8:28 PM

  11. I have had a few Neuropsychological evaluations done. One pre-surgical, post-surgical, and then again in 2014. The Neurophysiologist actually diagnosed my Chiari Malformation based on my symptoms during the pre-surgical one and based on some of the symptoms in my childhood before I had any of the more physical tests(including SPECT and MRI). Hardly any doctors can really diagnose that, let alone know about it!

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by trekkie80sgirl — September 13, 2020 @ 10:48 PM

  12. I just signed up and hopefully I can get my son to sign up. He plays video games so I am hoping he will do these activities even if a few times a week. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Tami — September 17, 2020 @ 6:41 PM

  13. Welcome. Does your son have photogenic epilepsy? If so this article could be interesting to you: Computer Gaming glasses https://www.zennioptical.com/gaming-glasses

    And if he’s looking for “brain games”, here’s an article that you might like: Memory games to boost your brain… https://epilepsytalk.com/2018/10/26/memory-games-to-boost-your-brain/

    Like

    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — September 17, 2020 @ 6:57 PM


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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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