Neuropsychology frequently asked questions

What is neuropsychology?

Neuropsychology is the study of the relations between the brain and behavior. A neuropsychologist is a psychologist with special training in the evaluation of people who have suffered an injury or illness to the brain.

Why was I referred for a neuropsychological evaluation?

There are several reasons why people are referred for neuropsychological evaluation. You may have experienced an injury to the brain because of an accident or because of an illness. Your health care provider may be concerned about your memory or other thinking abilities and wishes to understand them better. Another common reason for referral is to examine how a person is coping with medical symptoms or with an injury or illness.

Usually, your health care provider would like a better understanding of your thinking abilities, such as your memory, your language, your problem solving ability, and your emotions. This will help your doctor to provide you with the best possible care for your condition.

What takes place in a neuropsychological evaluation?

A neuropsychologist will interview you about any concerns you have with thinking abilities. At this time, if you wish to have a family member or friend present, you may do so. It is often helpful for the neuropsychologist to talk with your loved ones in order to understand your condition better.

During the evaluation, skills such as attention, memory, language, problem solving, and constructional ability will be measured. The tests will be administered by a specially trained technician. You may be asked to answer questions, read, write, draw, and put together designs. The tests are much like school tasks. You may also complete measures that will help the neuropsychologist understand how your illness or injury has affected your mood, your personality, or your coping skills. During the tests, your family members or friends will be asked to leave the room.

How long will a neuropsychological evaluation take?

Typically, a neuropsychological evaluation takes two hours. If your health care provider asks us to provide a more detailed evaluation, it may take four hours or longer. If you need a break during the evaluation, feel free to ask for one. If you are having a neuropsychological evaluation while an inpatient at University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics, the exam may be divided over the course of a few days and may even take place in your hospital room rather than in the Benton Laboratory.

What happens after a neuropsychological evaluation?

The technician who administered the tests will score the tests. The neuropsychologist will then interpret the results. Usually, the neuropsychologist will be able to provide you with feedback about the tests within 15 minutes after you have completed the evaluation. He or she will be able to identify your strengths and weaknesses and will help you understand how your strengths and weaknesses may affect your everyday life. We encourage you to ask questions during the feedback. If you wish, you may have a family member or friend with you during the feedback to help you remember the information.

Sometimes other commitments make it difficult for you to get feedback right away. In this case, the neuropsychologist can call you and let you know how you did as soon as possible.

What happens to the results of my neuropsychological evaluation?

The neuropsychologist will write a report based on the findings from the evaluation and will send a copy of the report to the health care provider who referred you for the evaluation. A copy of the report is kept in your medical chart and in the confidential files of the Benton Neuropsychology Laboratory. If there are other health care providers or professionals who you wish to have a copy of the report, you will need to give written permission to have the results sent to that person. The results of your evaluation are otherwise conflidential.

Neuropsychological evaluation results and treatment

The results of the evaluation will help your health care provider fully understand the effect of your brain injury or illness and will help guide him or her in making any treatment decisions. The results also may help guide you in making important decisions related to work, school, or your everyday living. Finally, the results may help guide your health care providers in providing rehabilitation for any identified weaknesses. Outpatient rehabilitation is available through the Neuropsychological Rehabilitation Laboratory in the Department of Neurology. Treatment is available for problems with behavior, emotions, memory and other aspects of thinking. Also, training is provided in behavioral methods of anxiety management and pain control.

For more information about neuropsychological evaluations and rehabilitation at the UI Hospitals & Clinics, please call 1-319-356-2671.

Last reviewed: 
December 2018

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