“The human mind is the last great unexplored continent on earth. It contains riches beyond our wildest dreams.” – Earl Nightingale
Neuropsychology is concerned with the complex relationship between the human brain and behaviour. A neuropsychologist is a psychologist with knowledge on the brain and the manner in which it regulates our behaviour.
A neuropsychologist can assist in the identification and adjustment to brain-related difficulties, such as personality change, memory-, attention-, and reasoning difficulties amongst various others.
In South Africa, a separate registration as a neuropsychologist does not yet exist and neuropsychology may be practiced by a clinical-, counselling-, industrial- or educational psychologist with additional knowledge in the field of neuropsychology.
Sustaining a brain injury or illness may have devastating effects on a person and their family. A taxing process of neuro-rehabilitation may place further strain on the family system. In this regard, I can provide assistance in the process of adjusting to a new level of functioning and/or an assessment to determine which areas of functioning has been altered by the injury or disease.
A person’s neuropsychological symptoms may also have a significant impact on their family. A neuropsychologist can also assist the family in understanding the symptoms and assist with strategies to assist the family in most effectively dealing with these symptoms.
Neuropsychologists often work with persons who have sustained:
- Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI),
- Brain tumours
- Dementia (including Alzheimer’s Dementia, Lewy Body Dementia, Vascular Dementia)
- Motor Neuron Disease
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Huntington’s Disease
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Attention Deficit Disorders
- Seizure Disorders
- Central Nervous System Infections
- Effects of chronic substance abuse
- Neuropsychiatric disorders
For more information on neuropsychology consult the South African Clinical Neuropsychology Association (SACNA).
Frequently Asked Questions
When should I consider seeing a neuropsychologist?
Consulting a neuropsychologist might be useful if you notice changes in behaviour, thought, attention, memory, speech or personality that affects your day-to-day functioning.
These may include:
- Forgetting things more often than usual
- Difficulty focusing, paying attention or being more easily distracted than usual
- Difficulty making sense of objects that you see
- Difficulty reading at the same level you could in the past
- Thinking thoughts that are not logical
- Feeling disorientated, forgetting or not recognizing where you are, or not remembering the date or time
- Difficulty finding the name of a common object or using words incorrectly
- Being less inhibited, taking more risks, saying things you wouldn’t usually say, being less patient than usual or getting angry or frustrated quicker than usual
- Feeling like your personality has started changing
What is a neuropsychological assessment?
A neuropsychological assessment is a process by which a clinician investigates a person’s overall neurocognitive functioning in order to identify their current strengths and limitations.
The process usually consists of four components:
· Review of your medical and other relevant documents
· A clinical interview with you
· A collateral interview with a caregiver, family member or close friend
· The administration of neuropsychological tests to further investigate your current level of functioning
Integrating the information from all of these sources will allow the clinician to create a comprehensive picture of your current level of neurocognitive and emotional functioning, how these have changed and possibly make recommendations for adaptations to your home, family and work life.
What skills and abilities will neuropsychological tests measure?
Neuropsychological assessments may investigate a wide variety of skills.
Depending on the reason for referral and the nature of your difficulties, some or all of the following may be investigated:
- General neurocognitive skill
- Executive function
- Problem solving
- Planning ability
- Abstract thought
- Attention and concentration
- Learning capacity
- Language & speech
- Visual spatial skills
- Sensorimotor skills
- Social functioning
- Emotional functioning
What happens during a neuropsychological assessment?
Firstly, the psychologist will interview you in order to get a picture of who you are and what you are currently concerned about. The psychologist is likely to ask questions about your history, background, the kind of symptoms you experience and how these affect your daily life.
In addition, the psychologist will then interview a family member, close friend or caregiver to get further collateral information on how you currently function in order to understand your difficulties better.
Thereafter, an assessment session will be scheduled where skills such as attention, memory, language, problem-solving, and constructional ability will be investigated. You may be asked to answer verbal questions, read paragraphs, write, draw and copy tasks, perform calculations and put together designs. You may also complete questionnaires that may assist the clinician in understanding how your symptoms influence your mood, personality, and capacity to cope with day to day challenges.
How long will the assessment take?
The neuropsychological assessment may take between 2 and 6 hours, depending on the type of skills being investigated. In certain instances, the assessment may be scheduled over two days to allow for further investigation. Provision will be made for regular breaks in order to allow you to perform at your best, but please ask if you are in need of a break.
Do I need to study or prepare for neuropsychological tests?
The aim of the assessment is to get a snapshot of your current level of functioning and what you are able to do now. As such, there is no need to study for the assessment or learn new things or practice skills before the assessment.
You can, however, prepare by:
- trying to get a good night’s sleep and be as well rested as possible on the day of the assessment
- ensuring that you have a good breakfast the morning of the assessment and that you pack lunch, drinks, and snacks for the day to keep you fueled
- ensuring that you take your medication as usual, unless indicated differently by your healthcare team
- if you require a hearing aid, glasses or other assistive devices, please bring them along
- bring along all relevant medical and academic records
When and how will I get feedback on the assessment?
After the assessment, the clinician will score and interpret the results and integrate this with all the other information obtained. A follow-up session will then be scheduled for feedback. The aim of the feedback session is to assist you with a clear picture of your current strengths and limitations and the implications thereof for your daily functioning. As such, it is recommended that you clarify any uncertainties and ask questions until you feel satisfied that you have a clear picture. It might also be useful to request a family member, friend or caregiver to accompany you to the feedback session in order to assist you in remembering all the information given. If needed, a written report may be compiled but if a report is required, additional cost will be incurred for the time spent writing the report.
All information will, however, be kept confidential and will not be communicated to any other person without your written consent. It must, however, be noted that, if the assessment was conducted for psycho-legal purposes, this level of confidentiality does not apply and feedback and reports will not be given to the person being assessed, but rather to the legal representative responsible for the case.
What are the costs involved?
Medical aids do, however, not cover the cost of psycho-legal assessment and a different fee structure applies.