Understanding Neurological and Neuropsychological Assessments

When faced with a loved one who is experiencing new neurological symptoms, caregivers and other family members often don’t know who to turn to for their neurological concerns. Differentiating between specialists like neurologists and neuropsychologists can be confusing, and it can be hard to know what type of assessment is needed. When you or a loved one is facing a new neurological diagnosis, you will likely be referred for a number of tests and cognitive assessments. Read on to learn more about two of the most common types of neurological assessments: a neurological workup and neuropsychological testing. 

Neurological diseases are broad and can include conditions such as: 

  • Chronic daily migraines, headaches
  • Stroke and brain aneurysms
  • Movement disorders (Parkinson’s Disease, essential tremors, and dystonia)
  • Alzheimer’s Disease and related dementias
  • ALS/Lou Gehrig’s Disease
  • Neuro-oncology (Brain and spinal cord tumors)
  • Sleep Medicine (Sleep apnea, narcolepsy, REM disordered sleep)
  • Neuropathy (Diabetic neuropathy, Guillain Barre Syndrome)
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Epilepsy/seizures
  • Brain injury and spinal cord medicine (traumatic brain injury, concussion, spinal cord injury)

In the United States, 1 in 3 people over the age of 65 will see a neurologist in their lifetime. A neurologist is a medical doctor who has completed four years of medical school, four years of neurology training, and then up to two years of additional speciality training. Neurologists conduct a medical workup that consists of reviewing the history of the disease, conducting a neurological exam (testing language, strength, sensation, reflexes, coordination, walking, etc), ordering imaging tests (MRI, CT etc), bloodwork, prescribing medications to help with the disease process, and referring to therapists and other professionals to help manage the condition. Sometimes neurologists will ask a neuropsychologist for a cognitive evaluation (more below). Neurologists often work in a clinic, but can also work in the acute hospital setting (intensive care unit and emergency department).

Neuropsychology, on the other hand, is a branch of psychology. Neuropsychologists usually have a Ph.D or PsyD in psychology and then complete additional training in neuropsychology. A neuropsychological workup involves assessing the brain’s ability to memorize, pay attention,  or multi-task for example. 

Often neuropsychological testing follows after a full neurological evaluation is performed. For example, in stroke patients, neuropsychological testing is usually ordered weeks to months after the initial stroke, if a patient is having cognitive impairment from the stroke. For patients with epilepsy or multiple sclerosis, their primary diseases are managed by neurologists, then a neuropsychologist may be consulted to see how the patient’s thinking abilities are being affected. 

In the field of digital brain health, many cognitive testing companies are using technology to help patients take neuropsychological tests online or in an app, prior to seeing a neurologist for a complete neurological workup. While convenient, these online tests should not take the place of a full neurological workup completed by a qualified neurologist. 

At Neurocern, we worked with board-certified neurologists and technology experts to create a tool that goes beyond a simple neuropsychological test. Our state-of-the-art platform allows caregivers and other family members to complete a comprehensive assessment for their loved ones, and provides a customized neurological workup recommendation, and even in some cases, a specific neuropsychological test that best suits the patient’s needs. Our recommendations are based on evidence-based guidelines from the American Academy of Neurology, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and the National Institute of Health and Aging. In addition, our suite of informatics includes customized testing recommendations, imaging recommendations, and even referrals to therapy based on individual neurological needs.

Start a NeuroHealth Intake to get a head start on your neurological workup.

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