Dr James Schaller
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What is Neuropsychology?

Neuropsychology is the science of brain-behavior relationships. Clinical neuropsychologists focus on understanding how brain processes affects one's ability to function at work, home and school. With preschoolers through adolescents, it is important to use our knowledge of normal cognitive and social development to help us understand the neuropsychological profile.

Insurance companies consider neuropsychology a medical procedure. Thus, better coverage is available usually without affecting mental health limits.

What information do neuropsychological examinations provide?

Neuropsychological examinations provide a broad overview of neurocognitive and emotional functioning, including sensation, perception, basic motor functions, language, attention and concentration, memory, academic achievement, global intelligence and higher integrative functions such as self-regulation, self-monitoring and impulse control. They can shed light on the underlying causes of behavior problems, discriminating between emotional and cognitive roots.

One of the most important benefits of such examinations is to document cognitive strengths, which can be used to compensate for areas of weakness. Repeated assessment can document resolution, stabilization or deterioration of neurocognitive deficits and neurological disease. Combined with personality testing, it can also help to differentiate between psychological and physical problems (e.g. Lyme disease vs. depression).

Proper evaluation can also help the physician make decisions on medication, such as which medications may be contraindicated from a functional viewpoint.

Neuropsychological evaluation can pinpoint specific weaknesses that interfere with an individual's ability to function, so that an effective remedial program can be initiated.

Who can benefit from a neuropsychological examination?

It can benefit individuals with:

  1. Traumatic injury, including brain injury and concussion
  2. Post-concussion syndrome, including the synergistic effect of multiple concussions
  3. Seizure disorders, such as epilepsy
  4. Systemic disorders such as diabetes, Lyme disease, stroke and chronic fatigue, which can lead to cognitive impairment
  5. Attention deficit disorder (ADD/ADHD), with or without hyperactivity (including adults)
  6. Learning problems (including the gifted learning disabled)
  7. Cognitive changes resulting from radiation therapy or chemotherapy
  8. Cognitive effects of premature birth or birth injuries
  9. Brain damage due to lead poisoning
  10. Problems with memory, attention and concentration, word-finding, calculation ability, organization and planning
  11. Developmental disabilities, such as Asperger's Syndrome, retardation and autism.

How does a Neuropsychological Evaluation differ from a traditional psychological or developmental evaluation?

A neuropsychological evaluation provides a deeper, broader understanding of cognitive difficulties, enabling design of a more effective treatment program. Neuropsychologists also have more experience and training in understanding difficulties caused by brain tumors, head traumas and other neurological and developmental conditions.

Helping the gifted patient who is learning disabled

Even gifted children can have ADD or other learning disabilities. This can be confusing or demoralizing to children who know that even though they are getting average or better than average grades, they are not performing as well as they should. Neuropsychological evaluation can determine if there are disabilities and pinpoint the areas of weakness so the gifted child can learn to succeed and work to his or her potential.

Testing can be comfortable and non-stressful

Good neuropsychologists believe it is important to make the testing and evaluation process as easy and stress-free as possible for both patient and parents. They follow the patient's pace, not forcing them to follow hers. This is helpful to patients of all ages, as people with neurological injuries fatigue easily, but is especially important for pre-school children. Patients often comment that their fears of testing were not confirmed and that it was actually an enjoyable experience.

Helping both patients and parents understand the process and the results

Good neuropsychologists may use psychology interns for parts of the testing which they have been trained to do. High quality neuropsychologists make it a practice to educate both patients and parents so they understand exactly what is wrong and what can be done to correct it or compensate for it. The reports are written in clear, non-technical language that is easily understood by non-professionals and the recommendations that are realistic as well as beneficial. And they work closely with the referring professional to keep them fully informed.

Special training in neuropsychology

It is very important to be an informed consumer and carefully check credentials when selecting a professional. To be considered a psychologist one must earn at least a masters in psychology from an accredited university and be licensed for private practice. To be a neuropsychologist one must also complete additional training in neuroanatomy, neurophysiology and neurological disease. Pediatric neuropsychologists must also study neurodevelopment. Psychologists are required to have two years full time (four years part time) of post-thesis (Masters) supervised clinical internship, with at least one year in a formal neuropsychology fieldwork.

Psychotherapy for preschoolers through adults

The staff applies their neurological training and capability for understanding how physiological dysfunction affects behavior to provide psychotherapy for patients with or without neurological problems. Among the many symptoms we have treated are anxiety, depression, emotional trauma, parenting and family issues, stress, children of divorce, self-esteem, patient adjustment to neurological or cognitive problems, adjustment to chronic illness, family adjustment to and coping with a member's illness and adjustment to developmental disabilities.

An expert witness if your case goes to court

Neuropsychologists are often asked to be experts in court. A few sample areas they testify would include:

  1. Document and evaluate damage from traumatic illness;
  2. Determine an individual's competence to make life decisions;
  3. Make recommendations for type and duration of treatment, including projecting future needs

I have modified this material from work done by both:

Dr. Karen Broch (New Jersey)

Judith Guedalia, Ph.D.
Director, Neuropsychology Unit
Chief Medical Psychologist
Supervising Specialist: Medical, Rehabilitation and Developmental Psychology
Shaare Zedek Medical Center Jerusalem, Israel
Tel: 972-2-6555-451 Fax: 972-2-6666-979

The original is found at: www.szmc.org.il/index.asp?id=109&top=2&page_id=575

Best Regards,

Dr. J


Bank Towers, Tamiami Trail, Naples, FL
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