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Neuropsychology: An Integral Component for Treating the Whole Patient, Not Just Their Disease

While it is commonly understood that neurological disease – be it stroke, brain tumor, cerebral palsy, etc. – can impact the way a person walks and talks, it is equally important to understand how these disorders impact the cognitive or learning capabilities of the patient. The Neuropsychology team at the Jane and John Justin Neurosciences Center at Cook Children’s is dedicated to assessing how neurological disease impacts attention, concentration, memory, executive function and other components that are essential to a child achieving their full learning potential. The goal of treatment goes beyond curing the disease to making sure our treatments, tests and surgeries don’t inflict more harm than good.

Neuropsychological evaluation includes assessments of cognitive processes such as attention, memory, processing, motor skills and problem-solving that can be affected by neurological conditions. The neuropsychologists at Cook Children’s focus on the cognitive deficits associated with epilepsy, traumatic brain injury, concussion, brain tumors, multiple sclerosis, stroke and brain tumors amongst other neurological conditions. Each neuropsychologist specializes in specific conditions, which allows them to remain current with the advances in their area of interest to provide the latest in services and recommendations to our patients. In addition, focusing on a particular subset of neurological conditions allows them to conduct dedicated research to expand our understanding of the cognitive impact of neurological disease in children.

Neuropsychological evaluations often serve several purposes. They provide a baseline or point- in-time view of the patient’s cognitive strengths and weaknesses before, or at the onset, of neurological disease. For some conditions, like epilepsy or sickle cell disease, cognitive functioning declines as the disease progresses and testing provides a way to measure how treatment of the disease is impacting the child. For conditions such as leukemia or brain tumors, the treatments to cure the disease can result in adverse cognitive effects. Testing provides a way to measure that impact over time. For concussion or traumatic brain injury, cognitive function may improve as the brain heals over time, and testing allows adjustment of treatment as evidence of brain recovery emerges. Finally, neuropsychological testing can help localize regions of brain dysfunction, such as when surgery is being considered for epilepsy. When learning deficits coincide with the location of seizure onset defined by EEG, the neuropsychological data can provide additional support for surgical intervention.

Neuropsychological testing is helpful to both parents and educators in assessing learning strengths and weaknesses and to guide school interventions and appropriate classroom placement. This input helps develop appropriate accommodations necessary to allow every child to reach their full learning potential.

While the primary focus for neuropsychologists is patient care, research remains an important component of their work. The medical literature unfortunately contains minimal information about the cognitive effects of neurological disease, the treatments we use to cure these disorders, and the long term learning outcomes. Our neuropsychology team continues to use their extensive patient experience to inform on a variety of subjects with selected recent publications listed below.

Neuropsychology Program at Cook Children's

Referrals

To inquire about referring a child for neuropsychological testing, call 682-885-7450.

Selected publications

Fournier-Goodnight A, Gabriel M, Perry MS. Preliminary neurocognitive outcomes in Jeavons Syndrome. Epilepsy Behav 2015, 52(Pt A):260-263.

Hodges SL, Gabriel MT, Perry MS. Neuropsychological Findings Associated with Panayiotopoulos Syndrome. Epilepsy Behav 2016, 54:158-62.

Murray J, Colaluca B, Brown E, Brown R. Pediatric tectal plate gliomas and the effects of treatment on attention. Neuro-Oncology 2016, 18, Issue suppl_6,1: vi120-vi121.

Our expertise:

Great outcomes begin with great input. Having a medical system where every department, doctor, and care team member works together means that your child can have quick access to testing, diagnosis and treatment, and that means better outcomes now and in the future.

Marsha Gabriel Ph.D.

Marsha Gabriel Ph.D.

Senior Neuropsychologist
Carla Morton, Ph.D.

Carla Morton, Ph.D.

Neuropsychologist
Beth Colaluca Ph.D.

Beth Colaluca Ph.D.

Neuropsychologist