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You are here : 3-RX.com > Medical Encyclopedia > Tests and Exams > Cognitive Testing

Cognitive Testing

Alternate Names : Neuropsychological Testing

Overview & Description | Preparation & Expectations | Results and Values

Cognitive testing can detect changes in the way the brain functions. It can also determine whether the changes have occurred as a result of brain injury, illness or disease. Cognitive testing looks at a person's thinking skills. It also explores whether emotional or physical problems are interfering with those thinking skills. Specific areas examined during cognitive testing include:

  • attention
  • concentration
  • memory
  • abstract thinking
  • problem solving
  • judgment
  • language skills
  • ability to interpret information from senses (such as hearing, vision, touch)
  • ability to control fine motor skills in the hands
  • intelligence
  • academic skills
  • emotional functioning
  • Who is a candidate for the test?

    Anyone who is suspected of having a change in brain function may need cognitive testing. This testing is done to determine if a person:

  • needs help with daily tasks
  • needs specialized therapy to improve brain function
  • needs supervision to live safely
  • is still mentally competent. This means that he or she is independently capable of making safe decisions.
  • How is the test performed?

    Many tests are needed to give a complete picture of a person's cognitive skills. For example, to test attention and concentration, a person is asked to perform a simple task when there is a distraction nearby. Memory testing involves having a person memorize simple words and recite them later. Other tests ask the person to copy drawings, locate objects, name pictures, or explain the meaning of proverbs. The tests chosen for each person depend upon the problems the person is showing.

    Some of the tests can be given by a speech/language pathologist, also called a speech therapist, or ST. They can also be administered by an occupational therapist, or OT. Some of these tests are used to screen for problems. They can also be used to determine if a particular therapy is bring about improvement. For example, someone who had a stroke may have some problems with understanding words. The ST may give tests that measure whether speech therapy is helping the person recover. When the ST or OT discovers cognitive problems, the therapist may recommend a full battery of tests. These are used to sort out causes of the problems and determine the best treatment plan. In this case, person should also be seen by a psychologist. A psychologist is qualified to give the full array of cognitive tests and to interpret the results. A psychologist who has received advanced training in the relationship between neurological and psychological problems is called a neuropsychologist. This professional often administers this type of testing.


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    Cognitive Testing: Preparation & Expectations

    Author: Karen Preston, PHN, MS, CRRN
    Reviewer: Eileen McLaughlin, RN, BSN
    Date Reviewed: 08/09/01

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