Thursday, January 8, 2015

How Is Neuropsychological Assessment Different From Cognitive Testing?

Corwin Boake, PhD, ABPP/CN
Division 40 representative to APA Council of Representatives
Neuropsychologist, TIRR/Memorial Hermann, Houston, TX
Clinical Associate Professor, Dept. of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, University of Texas-Houston Medical School

Cady Block, PhD

Chair, Association of Neuropsychology Students in Training (
Clinical neuropsychology postdoctoral fellow, TIRR/Memorial Hermann and Dept. of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX

With an extensive educational, clinical, and research training background in brain-behavior relationships, neuropsychologists are uniquely qualified in the conceptualization and assessment of cognitive problems in persons with brain disorders. From this perspective, all cognitive abilities arise from neurocognitive functions and thus would appear to fall within the expertise of the neuropsychologist. However, most clinical cognitive testing is performed by professions other than neuropsychologists or even by psychologists in general. More cognitive assessments are performed by physicians, educators, and rehabilitation therapists than by neuropsychologists. Cognitive assessment for educational recommendations is a major contribution of psychologists to schools.  But since these professionals use some of the same tests as do neuropsychologists, is it accurate for evaluations by these other professionals to be represented as neuropsychological assessment? What differentiates neuropsychological assessment from the cognitive testing conducted by these other professions?

The distinction between neuropsychological assessment performed by a clinical neuropsychologist and brief cognitive assessment as performed by physicians is formally recognized in the current revision of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. DSM-5 states that determination of cognitive impairment, as needed for the diagnoses of Mild and Major Neurocognitive Disorder, should be “preferably documented by standardized neuropsychological testing” (p. 602).  According to DSM-5, a key advantage of neuropsychological assessment over other forms of cognitive testing is to provide “quantitative assessment of all relevant domains” (p. 610), a feature that is particularly useful for diagnosis and for detecting change.

Another area in which this distinction has been clearly made is in guidelines for management of sports concussion. A recent consensus statement (4th International Conference on Concussion in Sport, Zurich, November 2012; McCrory et al., 2013) states, “It is recognized, however, that abbreviated testing paradigms are designed for rapid concussion screening … and are not meant to replace comprehensive neuropsychological testing which should ideally be performed by trained neuropsychologists that are sensitive to subtle deficits that may exist beyond the acute episode; nor should they be used as a stand-alone tool for the ongoing management of sports concussions” (p. 90).

The distinction between neuropsychological assessment and cognitive evaluations by psychologists in other specialties is also clearly made in the documentation on user qualifications that accompany many neuropsychological tests.  For example, the manual for the Repeatable Battery for the Assessment of Neuropsychological Status (RBANS) states that while other professionals
may engage in some initial interpretation of performance on RBANS, the test results should ultimately be interpreted only by individuals with appropriate professional training in neuropsychological assessment for diagnostic purposes” (Randolph,  2012, p. 9). Furthermore, the manual for Advanced Clinical Solutions for WAIS-IV and WMS-IV states that,When ACS is to be used for a neuropsychological assessment, the examiner should have appropriate training in neuropsychology and neuropsychological assessment” (Pearson, p. 8).  These test qualifications make clear that administering neuropsychological tests is not equivalent to neuropsychological assessment. Specialized interpretation competencies are necessarily part of practicing neuropsychology.

These interpretation competencies are clearly outlined in the description of the clinical neuropsychology specialty published by the American Psychological Association Commission for the Recognition of Specialties and Proficiencies in Professional Psychology (CRSPPP).  The CRSPPP description ( states that core competencies in clinical neuropsychology include not only the use of specialized neuropsychological assessment techniques, but also “the ability to integrate neuropsychological test findings with neurologic and other medical data, psychosocial and other behavioral data, and knowledge in the neurosciences,” as well as “an appreciation of social, cultural and ethical issues.”  

For comparison, the CRSPPP description of the geropsychology specialty ( states that core competencies include “cognitive and functional performance testing, integration of interdisciplinary assessments (e.g., medical, neuropsychological, social service).” This description implies that cognitive testing, while listed as a competency of this specialty, is distinct from neuropsychological assessment.

Recognition of clinical neuropsychology as a professional psychology specialty, rather than as a proficiency, indicates that the specialty’s core competencies should be practiced by psychologists who have undergone the education and training required of that specialty.  The large and expanding knowledge base required of clinical neuropsychologists explains the need for specialized postdoctoral training for two years, as outlined by the Houston conference guidelines.  Relevant areas of knowledge include (but are not limited to) neuropsychological assessment, psychometrics, diagnostic statistics, neuroanatomy and neurophysiology, brain-behavior relationships, and brain imaging.

The distinction between neuropsychological assessment and cognitive testing is commonly accepted and is consistent with the CRSPPP description.  It follows that training of psychologists in other specialties, which may include exposure to neuropsychology, is not adequate preparation for practicing neuropsychological assessment.  Yet this does not mean that practitioners in other psychological specialties should amend cognitive assessment from their scope of practice.  Practitioners in other specialties can continue to describe their assessments as cognitive assessment or cognitive evaluation (among many possible labels) while maintaining the existing scope of specialty practice. Cognitive assessment is one of the tools that may be shared among psychological specialties but it is not equivalent to neuropsychological assessment.


American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual for mental disorders, fifth revision. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Publishing

Houston conference on specialty education and training in clinical neuropsychology. (1997).

McCrory, P., Meeuwisse, W.H., Aubry, M. ... (2013). Consensus statement on concussion in sport: The 4th International Conference on Concussion in Sport, Zurich, November 2012. Journal of Sports Medicine, 23, 89-117.

Advanced Clinical Solutions for WAIS-IV and WMS-IV, Administration and scoring manual. (2009). San Antonio: NCS Pearson.  

Randolph, C. (2012). Repeatable Battery for the Assessment of Neuropsychological Status Update (p. 9). Bloomington, MN: NCS Pearson – PsychCorp.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

2015 APA Convention

Looking for a cornucopia of excitement, knowledge, and networking? Look no further than the 2015 APA Convention!


Workshops, Symposia, Posters, SCN Events, ANST Events, Networking


Soundy tasty?

We welcome your proposals for symposia, posters, and individual papers! The theme of Division 40’s 2015 Convention Program is “Integrated Healthcare.” We especially welcome submissions centered around this theme, but please know that all submissions are welcome. Please note that the deadline for individual submissions is December 1, 2014 at 5pm (EST).


Click here for detailed descriptions of the proposal guidelines, submission procedures, and a subject index for the convention program. All proposals must be submitted to the APA submission portal, which may be accessed here. 


For more information or questions/concerns, please contact:

Shawn McClintock, 2015 Convention Program Chair:

Dawn Schiehser, 2015 Convention Program Co-Chair:




Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Job Posting: Pediatric Neuropsychologist in Southeastern Massachusetts

See the PDF for this job posting at Pediatric Neuropsychologist in Southeastern Massachusetts

Job Posting: Chicago – Faculty Pediatric Neuropsychologist

The Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago are seeking a clinical pediatric neuropsychologist to join a multidisciplinary child psychiatry department in a nationally ranked freestanding children’s hospital located on the medical school campus.  Duties are primarily: 1) neuropsychological evaluation of infants, children, and adolescents; 2) Consultation to parents, schools and medical/surgical staff; 3) teaching in multidisciplinary child health and mental health training programs. Instructor or Assistant Professor position is full-time continuing appointment faculty, requiring experience and excellence in teaching and an interest in an academic environment. Experience with patients post-concussion is a plus. Research is encouraged. A PhD in clinical psychology from an APA-approved program and an APA-approved predoctoral internship are required, at least one of which has a focus on clinical child or pediatric psychology, and postdoctoral fellowship in pediatric neuropsychology are required.

Rank and salary commensurate with qualifications and experience. Research pilot funding is available.  Start date immediate after licensure in Illinois.  Applications will be evaluated as received.

To assure full consideration, applications must be received by November 30, 2014, but position is open until filled. Send CV with a letter describing clinical and academic interests and names of three professional references to: John Lavigne, PhD, Chief Psychologist, Lurie Children’s Department of Psychiatry, 225 E. Chicago Ave. Box 10, Chicago IL, 60611-2605

Northwestern University and Lurie Children’s Hospital are Equal Opportunity, Affirmative Action Employers of all protected classes, including veterans and individuals with disabilities. Women and minorities are encouraged to apply. Hiring is contingent upon eligibility to work in the United States and licensure in Illinois.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

APA Convention 2015

Join SCN/Division 40 and be part of the APA 2015 Convention

Confirmed Invited Speakers

It's not too early to start planning for APA 2015! Whether you're a seasoned professional, early career psychologist, or trainee, the Society for Clinical Neuropsychology is designing programming with YOU in mind. Speakers already confirmed:

Donald Stuss, PhD, ABPP-CN
Ontario Brain Institute

Kathleen Welsh-Bohmer, PhD
Duke University School of Medicine

George Prigatano, PhD, ABPP-CN
Barrow Neurological Institute

Morris Moscovitch, PhD
University of Toronto

Angela Troyer, PhD
Baycrest Health Sciences

August 6-9, 2015 -- Toronto, ON |

Society for Clinical Neuropsychology (APA Division 40) Early Career Award

The Society for Clinical Neuropsychology (APA Division 40) is accepting applications for the Robert A. and Phyllis Levitt Early Career Award in Neuropsychology. Eligible candidates are APA member psychologists not more than ten years postdoctoral degree, who have made a distinguished contribution to neuropsychology in research, scholarship, and/or clinical work. 

Application requirements:  A letter of nomination and one supporting letter (from a nationally-known neuropsychologist who is familiar with the candidate’s work and its impact on the field) should be included.  The nominee should also send a (1) a CV, (2) three supporting documents that provide evidence of national/international recognition (e.g., major publications, research grants, assessment, clinical, or teaching techniques, treatment protocols), and (3) a 500-word statement describing professional accomplishments, personal long-term goals, and future challenges and directions in the field of neuropsychology that they wish to address.  

Application procedure:  All materials provided by applicant are to be submitted electronically to Michael Basso, Chair, SCN Awards Committee, at Please submit all application materials in a single .pdf file. The letter of nomination and supporting letters may be included in the application file, or e-mailed directly to Dr. Basso. 

Application deadline:  October 25, 2014

Award:  The awardee will receive $1,000 and may be invited to give an address at the 2015 APA Convention in Toronto.


Apportionment Ballots

Neil Pliskin, PhD 
Neil Pliskin, PhD
Neil Pliskin, PhD

President, Society for Clinical Neuropsychology

In a few weeks you will receive an apportionment ballot from APA. This is the method that determines division and state representation on APA’s Council of Representatives. You will be provided with 10 votes for allocation, and I strongly encourage you to allocate ALL of your votes for SCN/Division 40 (or at least 6/10) so that clinical neuropsychology can maintain its strong representation in the APA Council.

Although various issues confront our field as a whole, we know that reimbursement for assessment and treatment services is one area that we can all agree demands more attention from APA, along with other issues related to specialty practice.  Apportionment of ballots is the way that we get neuropsychology’s voice at the table.  Representation by APA on national healthcare issues is one of the biggest ways we have of influencing the process, and the number of representatives to council we have is essential to effective influence.  Our council members have been doing an excellent job representing our interests, but there is indeed strength in numbers, and SCN is well-positioned to gain a better foothold within APA. I strongly urge you to allocate your votes for SCN/Division 40 to maintain and hopefully increase our representation within APA. Remember, every vote counts!