Skip to Main Content

What Is Neuropsychological Testing?

June 3, 2024

Poster for video What is a Neuropsychological Evaluation?

With more than 86 billion neurons inside it, the brain is an extremely complex organ with different areas involved in different processes, all working together to allow you to think, feel, and act.

For example, the hippocampus structure inside the brain is important in memory. An injury to this area can affect your ability to remember things in day-to-day life.

“But there are many different things that could impact your memory. It could also be poor sleep, relationship difficulties, or depression or anxiety,” says Christopher Benjamin, PhD, a Yale Medicine neuropsychologist.

When there’s a concern about something happening in the brain, there are tests medical providers can perform. An MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) allows doctors to examine the structures of the brain; an EEG (electroencephalography) measures the brain’s electrical activity.

There are also ways to show how your brain functions. This is called a neuropsychological assessment, and it entails various tests that “look directly at how your thinking is working,” Benjamin says.

A neuropsychologist is a type of psychologist who measures thinking and typically works as part of a team of specialists. At the Yale Medicine Epilepsy Program, for instance, a neurologist, neurosurgeon, radiologist, and a neuropsychiatrist may all treat the same patient and approach care from different angles.

“The neuropsychologist speaks with all of these people to put together pieces of the puzzle of what’s happening with someone, and we treat it,” Benjamin says.

Someone might receive a referral for a neuropsychological evaluation if they are having problems with memory, have had a traumatic brain injury, are about to have neurosurgery, or have epilepsy (a brain disorder involving recurring seizures).

The assessment takes about four hours and doesn’t require any preparation. “I’ll ask you to remember things. I’ll ask you to draw things. I’ll ask you to pay attention,” Benjamin says. “And what we can do then is measure those skills, and I can compare you to individuals like yourself, people of the same age and educational background. I can work out if you have problems with your memory, your attention, or something else.”

All of this, Benjamin says, can help your neurologist figure out the best treatment plan.

In the video above, Benjamin talks more about neuropsychological testing.