Neuropsychological Testing

Topics: Clinical neuropsychology, Neuropsychology, Psychology Pages: 3 (830 words) Published: December 1, 2010
Clinical neuropsychology is a field with historical origins in both psychology and neurology. The primary activity of neuropsychologists is assessment of brain functioning through structured and systematic behavioral observation. Neuropsychological tests are designed to examine a variety of cognitive abilities, including speed of information processing, attention, memory, language, and executive functions, which are necessary for goal-directed behavior. By testing a range of cognitive abilities and examining patterns of performance in different cognitive areas, neuropsychologists can make inferences about underlying brain function. Neuropsychological testing is an important component of the assessment and treatment of traumatic brain injury, dementia, neurological conditions, and psychiatric disorders. Neuropsychological testing is also an important tool for examining the effects of toxic substances and medical conditions on brain functioning. Before the introduction of neuroimaging techniques like the computed tomography (CAT scan) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), the primary focus of neuropsychology was diagnosis. Since clinicians lacked non-surgical methods for directly observing brain lesions or structural abnormalities in living patients, neuropsychological testing was the only way to determine which part of the brain was affected in a given patient. Neuropsychological tests can identify syndromes associated with problems in a particular area of the brain. For instance, a patient who performs well on tests of attention, memory, and language, but poorly on tests that require visual spatial skills such as copying a complex geometric figure or making designs with colored blocks, may have dysfunction in the right parietal lobe, the region of the brain involved in complex processing of visual information. When a patient complains of problems with verbal communication after a stroke, separate tests that examine production and comprehension of language help...
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