Neuropsychology is a specialty of psychology that focuses on the relationship between brain function and behavior.
A neuropsychologist is a professional within the field of psychology with special expertise in the assessment, diagnosis, treatment, and/or rehabilitation of patients across the lifespan with neurological, medical, and neurodevelopmental conditions.
A neuropsychologist has additional training about the brain and how it functions. A neuropsychologist has two years of clinical experience and specialized training in the study and practice of clinical neuropsychology at the post-doctoral level. These two years of fellowship include supervision by a clinical neuropsychologist as well as research and seminars in the area of neuropsychology. Although a neuropsychologist and psychologist both have a doctoral degree in psychology, a neuropsychologist has more specialized training about the brain and related disorders during their doctoral level coursework, research, internship and fellowship.
A neuropsychological evaluation involves gathering information from a patient's background, behavioral observations, and neuropsychological tests to understand a person's unique development to clarify diagnosis and plan/provide treatment. It involves a clinical interview, detailed analysis of a person’s behavior in different settings and the administration of neuropsychological tasks. We evaluate the following:
General cognitive ability
Communicative and language skills
Executive (thinking, reasoning) skills
Learning and memory abilities
Sensory and motor skills
Social cognition and interpersonal skills
One's ability to live independently and to manage financial affairs
Specific tasks are chosen based on (1) the referral question or reason for the evaluation, (2) the person's age, and (3) any previous evaluations.
The feedback session is an integral and very important component of the overall assessment. It is usually scheduled within two weeks of the last evaluation session.
Session I - Interview (30 minutes-1 hour)
The initial diagnostic interview session is conducted by Dr. Salinas with the patient alone or with his/her parent(s) as well as family members/legal guardian. This is to review the reason for the assessment and to obtain details of the developmental, medical and educational history. There will be opportunity to discuss sensitive information without a child being present if requested. Patients and their family members may be asked to complete questionnaires and bring them back to Session II. For children, questionnaires will also be provided for teachers to fill out in order to gather information about how the child thinks, feels, and behaves at school.
Session II - Testing (1-5 hours)
The child or adult works with Dr. Salinas and/or one of the Center's clinicians on various tasks. If the child is age appropriate, the parent(s) usually waits for the child in the reception area. The time required to complete testing depends on the patient’s age, development, behavior and the reason/concerns for evaluation. Typically, it takes between 3-5 hours for school aged children and adults. It can take 1-3 hours for those with significant cognitive challenges, preschoolers, and the elderly. Screenings typically take 90 minutes. We take a 1 hour lunch break between 12-1pm. There are several places to eat or walk to in downtown Melbourne.
Session III - Feedback (30-90 minutes)
The findings of the evaluation and recommendations will be discussed with you in detail. Interpretation of results and feedbacks are done by Dr. Salinas. An adult patient may choose to come alone or bring a family member. For children under 18, both parents are expected to attend this session. Children 16 and up are typically required to attend. Depending on the age of the child, others may wish to attend also.This will be followed by a written report that presents the patient’s history, behavioral observations, test findings, diagnostic formulation, management plan, and recommendations.
Understanding a patient's neuropsychological strengths and weaknesses can:
1) help explain the integrity of brain functions
2) clarify a diagnosis and identify brain areas that are involved
3) determine cognitive, emotional, or behavioral consequences from brain impairment
4) help determine if a given treatment and/or brain surgery (e.g., epilepsy, deep brain stimulation) is appropriate for a particular person and whether treatment has any positive or negative effects on cognitive functions and behavior
5) establish a baseline against which to measure the outcome of treatment (new medications, surgery) or an injury (athletes who are at risk for sustaining a concussion).
6) inform real-world interventions that are needed, including rehabilitation potential depending on daily functioning
The neuropsychologist will work with your physicians to combine results from medical tests, such as brain imaging, to help clarify diagnosis and help plan interventions. Test findings will help you and/or your child’s school, rehabilitation specialists, and doctors provide treatments and interventions for you and/or your child that will meet your unique needs.
Neuropsychological testing may be repeated at regular intervals to help monitor developmental, cognitive, emotional, and academic progress after treatments and/or injuries. Identification of any changes leads to interventions to help manage challenges. The goal is to develop strategies so that the individual can meet or exceed expectations at home, school, work, or in the community.
Testing results will be communicated with you and/or to your doctors (with your consent) by the neuropsychologist. You will receive a neuropsychological report that you can share with school personnel and others involved in care.
It is important that the child or adult gets adequate sleep the night before and eats breakfast before the evaluation since it can take most of the day. Also, patients should take all medications as scheduled on the testing day. Please provide us with a copy of relevant medical records such as neurodiagnostic tests (brain scans such as CT or MRI; EEG). Please provide a copy of any previous neuropsychological evaluations or academic testing, if available. A copy of an Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) would be helpful. Glasses and hearing aids are important for optimal test performance. Feel free to bring a snack and/or lunch if you do not plan to go to a local restaurant during the break.