Neuropsychological assessment

What is clinical neuropsychological assessment?

Clinical neuropsychologists are psychologists who specialize in understanding the relationship between the brain and different thinking skills. They can help you and your physician understand your cognitive skills, strengths and weaknesses. This profile can help your physician understand how different regions of your brain are functioning and this can assist them in treating and identifying any difficulties you may have. A typical assessment at Yale lasts five to six hours, and simply involves you sitting in the office and reviewing your medical history and then answering questions and completing tasks using pencils and paper (or a computer). A neuropsychological assessment just takes a snapshot of your thinking skills as they are at the moment.

Neuropsychologists, psychiatrists, neurologists, psychologists

Neuropsychologists are specialized psychologists.  They typically complete a five to six year PhD in psychology, where they are trained in therapy and diagnosis of psychological disorder as well as in research.  They then typically complete two further years of training in cognitive testing and interpretation, and the diagnosis of neurological and psychological disorders using this information.  Neuropsychologists are not medical doctors.  For example, Dr. Benjamin completed his PhD in psychology at the University of Melbourne in Australia, specializing in epilepsy.  He then spent four years completing research training in neuroscience at Boston Children's Hospital and Harvard, and finally completed two years of post-doctoral training in clinical neuropsychology at UCLA.

How will seeing a neuropsychologist help treat my epilepsy?

An overview of the epilepsy evaluation process at Yale is available at the program website, here.

The results of the neuropsychological assessment can help your team understand where seizures may be occurring in the brain, and understand what the possible benefits and risks of different forms of treatment may be.  Within Yale's Comprehensive Epilepsy Center, patients with epilepsy routinely receive neuropsychological assessment as part of their standard care, as is recommended by the National Association of Epilepsy Centers. 

Typically, after neuropsychological assessment and all other relevant assessments (such as EEG, MRI and PET imaging) are completed, the epilepsy team meet as a group to review all of your findings. This meeting usually involves 15 or more neurologists, radiologists, neuropsychologists, neurosurgeons and epilepsy center staff who review your case for over an hour and results in a group recommendation about how your seizures can best be treated. After this meeting your neurologist or another of your clinicians will meet with you to discuss all your results and help you to evaluate your treatment options.

If you would like to learn more or obtain a referral to Yale, please contact Yale Neurology (Tel. 203.785.4085) or the Yale Comprehensive Epilepsy Center directly.