We’ve been talking about neurocognitive testing (part 1), what it’s used for, and some examples of what kinds of tests you might perform (part 2). Now let’s talk about what the scores mean and how they’re analyzed.
With neurocognitive testing, the first purpose is to see how your raw score on a test compares to other people in the population. How does your score compare to the average score of comparable people (i.e., same age, gender and education)? When your raw scores are compared to a suitable control group, that provides a general assessment of your current cognitive function.
Now, using a comparison to a population is one thing, but the tests can be even more sensitive if an individual has a baseline test (or multiple baselines). A baseline tells us what the particular person’s scores were at an earlier point in time. And that is the optimal comparison to use in the future if they experience a head injury or disease.
By tracking your brain health through time, a person can determine several things: How bad is the problem? What cognitive functions are affected? How well is the recovery going? When is there a need to go back to the doctor?
Neurocognitive testing for concussion and dementia
More focused testing drills down on tests that directly relate to a particular disorder. For example, when looking for signs of concussion versus dementia, we use very specific tests. Some of the tests overlap and some are different tests that probe particular aspects of brain health. In the end, the overall pattern of scores gives the signature that reveals whether there’s a problem.
Our ongoing research is aimed at using big data from thousands and thousands of people who are keeping track of their cognitive health or recovering from concussion. We employ the latest big data analysis techniques to better predict the course of cognitive decline or recovery, which will give health care professionals the tools to craft plans accordingly. In other words, we use thousands of data points to gain insight into the health of individuals.