Neuropsychological Assessment in Dementia Diagnosis

John C. Morris, Sandra Weintraub*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


PURPOSE OF REVIEW This article discusses the application of neuropsychological evaluation to the workup of individuals with age-related cognitive impairment and suspected dementia. Referral questions, principles of evaluation, and common instruments to detect abnormalities in cognition and behavior in this population are reviewed. The integration of neuropsychological test findings with other clinical and biomarker information enhances early detection, differential diagnosis, and care planning. RECENT FINDINGS Life expectancy is increasing in the United States, and, accordingly, the prevalence and incidence of dementia associated with age-related neurodegenerative brain disease are rising. Age is the greatest risk factor for the dementia associated with Alzheimer disease, the most common neurodegenerative cause of dementia in people over 65 years of age; other etiologies, such as the class of frontotemporal lobar degenerations, are increasingly recognized in individuals both younger and older than 65 years of age. The clinical dementia diagnosis, unfortunately, is imperfectly related to disease etiology; however, probabilistic relationships can aid in diagnosis. Further, mounting evidence from postmortem brain autopsies points to multiple etiologies. The case examples in this article illustrate how the neuropsychological evaluation increases diagnostic accuracy and, most important, identifies salient cognitive and behavioral symptoms to target for nonpharmacologic intervention and caregiver education and support. Sharing the diagnosis with affected individuals is also discussed with reference to prognosis and severity of illness. SUMMARY The clinical neuropsychological examination facilitates early detection of dementia, characterizes the level of severity, defines salient clinical features, aids in differential diagnosis, and points to a pathway for care planning and disease education.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)781-799
Number of pages19
JournalCONTINUUM Lifelong Learning in Neurology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 1 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Genetics(clinical)


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