A Clinical Neuropsychologist is a psychologist with specific training in the assessment, diagnosis and rehabilitation planning of disorders that can affect brain function across the lifespan. Neuropsychologists have advanced knowledge of the cognitive, emotional and behavioural symptoms associated with a wide range of conditions that can affect the brain. These include dementia, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease, stroke, brain tumours, and traumatic brain injury.

When people present to their GP or medical specialist with concerns about their memory and thinking abilities, doctors will often request that they undergo a scan of their brain. While this produces images of what the brain looks like, they do not tell the doctor or the person concerned how the brain is working.  This is where referral to a Clinical Neuropsychologist can be particularly helpful.

Clinical Neuropsychologists are often asked to conduct comprehensive assessments of individuals' cognitive or "thinking" abilities, to determine areas of strength and weakness. This assessment may include measures of attention, memory, language, and other complex thinking skills, as well as psychological well-being. The process also involves taking a detailed history from the individual (and often a family member/carer).

The findings of such an assessment can help to answer a broad range of questions, such as:

  • Does my father have dementia, and if so, what condition may be causing the dementia?
  • Is my increasing forgetfulness due to stress and/or ageing or could there be another cause?
  • My mother had early-onset dementia. Can I seek an objective baseline now for future comparison, should I become aware of memory problems in the future?
  • I had surgery for a brain tumour three months ago.  Is now a good time to return to work and what strategies can help me compensate for any difficulties with my thinking skills?
  • I have had some difficulties concentrating on my university studies since my seizures started. Are these difficulties normal for my age or could they be due to the seizures and/or medications? What can I do about these difficulties?

As the assessment process is comprehensive, it often takes several hours to complete. Considerable work also goes on following the appointment, with scoring of tests, analysis, and interpretation of results. Typically, a report of the findings is produced which is sent to the referring doctor.  A feedback session can also be arranged with the individual and their family member/carer, with the potential for further appointments to discuss ongoing management of any weaknesses and capitalising on strengths, where requested.

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