For the General Public
The importance of neuropsychology in screening for and monitoring dementia: In simple words, like blood sugar tests help monitor blood sugar levels, neuropsychological assessments help understand how one’s brain is functioning. They tell us, if there is a problem with memory or any other cognitive function (like language, abstraction etc). They can help the clinician in assessing the severity or extent and what could be the underlying disease or cause. They are also used to monitor response to treatment or to monitor people with very slight memory problems (mild cognitive impairment or MCI) who can develop more severe ones later (dementia).
To complement neuropsychological assessments, doctors usually ask for a brain scan, usually a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or sometimes a positron imaging scan (PET). These scans help determine if the brain has suffered any damage that could be due to many conditions, healthy ageing included. In fact, neuropsychological assessments have been known to beat MRI scans in tracking whether a person with mild memory problems may develop dementia in the future.
In one particular condition known as Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI), clinics around the world rely greatly upon neuropsychological assessments to aid diagnosis. In most cases, patients with MCI complain of mild difficulties with memory in that, they forget where they keep things, forget people’s names or the context in which they met them. This condition is known as amnestic MCI. However and importantly, these mild difficulties do not interfere greatly with the person’s daily living and the activities they engage in. While amnestic MCI presents with memory difficulties, another variant of the condition known as non-amnestic MCI may manifest in difficulties in planning and organizing or difficulties with language. Interestingly, 20 years of research has suggested that a small percentage of people with amnestic MCI may go on to show symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease in the future. Here is where neuropsychological assessments are considered as the gold standard in diagnosis. Detecting MCI at an early stage with the aid of neuropsychological assessments help to monitor the patient and schedule activities/memory tips that may help prevent conversion to dementia of Alzheimer’s type.
Complete neuropsychological assessments for adults and children.