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What is Neuropsychological Testing?

If you, your child or a loved one has been told that you need a neuropsychological test you will need to find a neuropsychologist. A neuropsychological test (sometimes called a neuropsychological exam or evaluation) is an in-depth assessment of skills and abilities linked to brain function. The test measures such areas as attention, problem solving, memory, language, I.Q., visual-spatial skills, academic skills, and social-emotional functioning. After the neuropsychologist runs their tests they render a diagnosis and develop a treatment plan.

Anyone seeking care from a neuropsychologist should look for a credentialed mental health professional. The American Board of Clinical Neuropsychology and the American Academy of Clinical Neuropsychology are the organizations that certify these professionals.

Behaviors That May Signal the Need for a Neuropsychological Test

  • Asking the same questions
  • Repeating the same things
  • Not appearing to listen
  • Difficulty finding the right words
  • Inability to follow a conversation
  • Unable to recognize everyday things
  • Exhibiting poor judgment
  • Making bad decisions
  • Frequently losing things
  • Sudden personality changes
  • Increased anxiety or depression
  • Having delusions or hallucinations
  • Getting lost in familiar places
  • Difficulty managing bills or money
  • Can’t recognize familiar people

Neuropsychology can address several mental health issues including:

Assessing Disorders and Conditions With a Neuropsychological Test

A neuropsychological test can be used to assess an existing condition, gauge its stage of development, or provide a new diagnosis. It is often used to help those with physical disorders, including TBI or stroke. A neuropsychological test can also identify mental health disorders, such as bipolar disorder.

Assessing An Existing Disorder

A neuropsychological test can be used to assess the effects of a physical event on the brain. For example, a doctor might use one to determine what areas of the brain were affected in a patient in the aftermath of a Traumatic Brain Injury.

Other issues neuropsychological tests can address include:

  • Seizures
  • Stroke
  • Memory Loss
  • Alzheimer’s
  • Dementia

Learning and Developmental Disorders

Neuropsychological testing is also useful in identifying and diagnosing developmental and learning disorders in children. These can include:

  • Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
  • Sensory Processing Disorder
  • Language Disorders
  • Seizure Disorders
  • ADHD
  • Dyslexia

Mood Disorders

Patients with mood disorders can also benefit from neuropsychological testing. Oftentimes, mood disorders are hard to identify, and a neuropsychological test can dial in on the problem at hand. Patients with bipolar disorder, severe depression, or psychosis are just some of the individuals that can benefit from a neuropsychological test.

Running a Differential Diagnosis

Oftentimes, practitioners need to rule out other disorders in order to give a diagnosis. For this reason, a neuropsychological test may include a differential diagnosis. As an example, an elderly person presenting with memory loss may have Alzheimer’s, but TBI needs to be ruled out before that diagnosis can be confirmed. Running a differential diagnosis may also involve a physical examination.

Neuropsychological Testing

Neuropsychological practitioners can test for many mental functions including:

  • Executive Functions, which are higher-level skills you use to organize and plan, manage your time, problem solve, multi-task, make judgments and maintain self-control.
  • Visuospatial Skills
  • Memory
  • Mood & Personality
  • General Intelligence
  • Reading Comprehension
  • Language Usage & Understanding
  • Mental Reasoning
  • Dementia-Specific Challenges
  • Multiple Functions
  • Motor Speed & Dexterity


Memory works in five different ways: procedural, semantic, episodic, short-term, and priming. A neuropsychological test may assess one or more of these areas of memory.


Intelligence can be affected quite easily after physical trauma. A neuropsychological test is a reliable way to test areas of one’s intelligence that might be less affected by trauma; thereby providing a differential diagnosis. When testing for any form of intelligence, doctors use scales to compare a patient’s results with those of other individuals with similar backgrounds.


Language testing in a neuropsychological test can assess what aspects of language a patient has retained after a trauma such as a stroke or seizure. It can also be used in assessing developmental delays.

Executive Function

Testing for executive function involves assessing a patient’s ability to solve problems, organize, and plan. Testing can vary depending on the patient’s medical history.


In some neuropsychological tests, the doctor may test visuospatial functioning. This determines how well a patient can perceive, integrate or construct a visual space.


Dementia-specific testing is run on individuals who may have dementia. A doctor typically uses the Clinical Dementia Rating and the Dementia Rating Scale to assess whether or not a patient has the disorder and what stage of development that patient is in.

Multiple Functions

Some neuropsychological tests may involve testing multiple functions across different areas, including:

  • Reasoning
  • Language
  • Calculations
  • Construction
  • Memory