What Is Neuropsychological Testing?

Isn't neuropsychological testing a "soft-science" that only generates vague results?

No. During the past decade neuropsychological testing has become a very sophisticated science. Tests that are currently available are highly accurate, standardized instruments, with predictive accuracy in the 80-95% range. They are validated through clinical trials, adhering to stringent, objective measures. Neuropsychological tests provide quantifiable results that indicate the amount of deviation from base-line norms. Through a comparison of patient responses to established norms, the clinician can determine the scope and severity of cognitive impairments. Psychologists and neuropsychologists create batteries of standardized tests to answer specific referral questions. A typical battery consists of more than a dozen standardized tests and provides very specific data on a patient's cognitive functioning.

What types of cases should I refer for neuropsychological testing? 

Neuropsychological testing provides diagnostic clarification and grading of clinical severity for patients with subtle or obvious cognitive disorders. These include:

  • Children who are not achieving appropriate developmental milestones
  • Infants exposed to drugs, alcohol or illness in-utero
  • Patients with head injuries
  • Patients with Parkinson's Disease, or other neurological diseases
  • Patients exposed to chemicals or toxins
  • Substance abusing patients
  • Stroke victims
  • Patients with dementia

Wouldn't I be providing better care by referring my patient to a neurologist? 

The function of a neurologist is significantly different from that of a neuro-psychologist. The neurologist's expertise lies in diagnosing and treating the structural and physiological consequences of brain injuries and neurological illnesses. In contrast, neuropsychologists assess the effects of brain injuries and illnesses on cognition and behavior; they are experts in assessing functional capacities. Many patients need both neurological and neuro-psychological work-ups.

What information will I get from a neuropsychological report? 

Neuropsychological testing is a procedure that measures and identifies cognitive impairment and functioning in individuals. It provides quantifiable data about the following aspects of cognition:

  • Short-term and long-term memory
  • Ability to learn new skills and solve problems
  • Attention, concentration, and distractibility
  • Logical and abstract reasoning functions
  • Ability to understand and express language
  • Visual-spatial organization Visual-motor coordination
  • Planning, synthesizing and organizing abilities

This data results in accurate clinical diagnosis and a grading of clinical severity.

Neuropsychological testing is time-consuming. Won't my patients object? 

Testing does take a significant amount of time, ranging from 3 to 12 hours, and requires that the psychologist be attentive to the patient's energy and motivation. BAPTA ensures that patient contact time is kept to a minimum by collecting all collateral information, medical records, and self-report inventories prior to the patient's visit. BAPTA psychologists also conduct a thorough clinical interview and design the test battery prior to testing. This ensures that testing is performed in the most efficient manner and increases patient compliance.

Is neuropsychological testing expensive?
What about costs and insurance reimbursement? 

Neuropsychological testing is viewed by insurance companies and HMO's as medical diagnostics, not as a mental health issue. They reimburse at the same rate as other medical specialties. Using neuropsychological tests early in the diagnostic decision tree can save money by avoiding unnecessary diagnostic imaging.

Compare:

  • Standard Neuropsychological Battery $ 900 - 2,000
  • MRI $ 6,000 - 12,000
  • PET Scan $ 3,000

Neurological-imaging provides information on structural and physiological aspects of brain injury while neuropsychological testing provides the most accurate picture of patient's cognitive functioning.


Bay Area Psychological Testing Associates
870 Market Street, Suite 1181
San Francisco, CA 94102
Telephone (415) 296-8081 

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