What is Neuropsychological Function?

Neuropsychological functions are related to what directs a person’s cognitive skills, memory, personality, problem-solving, reasoning, emotion and personality.

Following a TBI, a neuropsychologist may run some tests to help diagnose any cognitive, behavioural or neurological conditions which are a result of a person’s traumatic brain injury (TBI).

How does a TBI affect Neuropsychological Function?

Suffering a TBI of any severity can have an impact on a patient’s neuropsychological function. However, research shows that severe TBI is more likely to have an impact on neuropsychological functions including alertness and orientation, language, communication, attention and memory.1

This impact on neuropsychological function may result in the person who has experienced a TBI being:

  • Unable to concentrate for long periods of time
  • Restless, with difficulty having long or complex conversations
  • Easily distracted
  • Taking more time to process and understand ideas
  • Slower to react or carry out physical tasks
  • Trouble thinking of the correct words or phrases
  • Trouble communicating and understanding thoughts and feelings (both theirs and other peoples)
  • Difficulty in remembering both new things and some things which happened in the days and weeks before their accident
  • Difficulty with memory and doing tasks that require multiple steps
  • Trouble with problem-solving, including recognising that there is a problem to begin with, and then taking the steps to rectify the issue.

Brain Changes

Following a TBI, if a person is suffering from a decline in their neuropsychological function it is most likely that the impact to their brain has involved the frontal lobe and/ or the temporal lobe.2

Damage to the frontal lobe can lead to behavioural and emotional changes, reduced cognitive ability and memory loss. Damage to the temporal lobe can lead to problems with memory, and difficulty with language.2

Treatment is Available

Following a TBI and depending upon the severity of the injury and the opinion of your GP, you may be referred for neuropsychological testing.  The neuropsychologist will evaluate your current symptoms as well as any conditions you may have had prior to your TBI which may affect your current symptoms.3

Neuropsychological testing following a TBI may include tests such as the following:

  • attention / working memory
  • processing speed
  • language
  • visuospatial ability (identifying and analysing space and visual relationships, needed for movement and depth perception)
  • memory
  • executive function
  • a mood self-report.

If you feel you have problems with any of the neuropsychological functions described here, see your GP who may refer you to a neuropsychologist. There are treatments available to assist with neuropsychological functioning and your neuropsychologist can advise as to whether these would be suitable for you.

References

  1. Yeates, K., Levin, H., & Ponsford, J. (2017). The Neuropsychology of Traumatic Brain Injury: Looking Back, Peering Ahead. Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society,23(9-10), 806-817. DOI:10.1017/S1355617717000686
  2. Acquired Brain Injury Outreach Service (ABIOS): https://www.health.qld.gov.au/abios
  3. Prince C., Bruhns M. E. (2017). Evaluation and treatment of mild traumatic brain injury: the role of neuropsychology.Brain Sci. 7:105. 10.3390/brainsci7080105 [PMC free article]