Neuropsychological Assessment Methods

Clinical Interviews

The structure and aim of clinical interviews are very similar across the health professions, whether they are performed by a general practitioner, clinical psychologists, or the various medical specialities. They involve a conversation between the health practitioner and the patient, to determine:

  • Current complains/ presenting symptoms
  • History of the presenting complaints
  • Past medical history
  • Family medical history
  • Current medications
  • Social History and
  • Environmental factors

Based on the interview information, the neuropsychologist makes the initial tentative formulation of the brain-behaviour relationships at play.

Mental Status Examination

Whether formally, or informally, all health practitioners perform mental status evaluations, but differ on the degree to which this is formalized/ standardized, and detailed.

Brief Examinations:

These are performed by most medical practitioners, and include a few questions or observations to determine if the patient is alert, attentive, well-oriented, able to remember things, or cooperative.

Detailed Examinations:

These are typically performed by psychologists, and to some extent by neurologists. The examination evaluates

  • Level of consciousness/ alertness.
  • Memory (Short-term vs Long-term)
  • Language
  • Numeracy
  • Movement
  • Naming abilities
  • Constructional abilities (Drawing, manipulating shapes)
  • Spatial abilities
  • Abstract thinking/ Reasoning
  • Presence of psychotic symptoms (delusions, hallucinations, and others).
  • Presence of mood disorders (depression/ anxiety).
  • And others.

Psychological Tests

Amongst the health professions, the use of psychological tests to document brain-behaviour relationships is the special domain for neuropsychologists.

Hundreds of behavioural/ mental domains are assessed using individual tests or batteries of tests. The assessment is more detailed and uses more complex testing procedures than are used in mental status examinations.

Some domains typically tested include the following:

  • Motor tests (e.g. finger tapping speed, finger dexterity, and grip strength).
  • Memory Tests.
  • Language Tests
  • Speed of information processing (reaction time)
  • Sensory functions (vision, hearing, touch etc).
  • Intelligence tests (Including IQ tests).
  • Personality tests.
  • Tests of executive function.
  • And many others.

Medical Laboratory Test Results

Neuropsychologists take into account, available medical test results, which include the following:

  • Blood Tests
  • Neuro-imaging [EEGs, CT scans, MRIs, and others]
  • Outcomes of physical assessments from all health disciplines.