Why is an Assessment Important?
Assessment of mental-health problems, brain injury, stress disorders, or learning disabilities is an important part of a mental-health professional’s role. Psychologists conduct assessment using standardized testing procedures which helps answer questions about the causes, course, and effective interventions for clients’ problems. A thorough assessment is beneficial to clients in other ways as well: it can enhance their sense of control and help to define the appropriate goals for intervention, thus increasing the likelihood of positive outcome.
A psychological assessment is a broad-based assessment that is indicated if there are concerns about intellectual ability, memory, attention, emotional disorder, behavioural adjustment, or personality traits. We conduct these assessments with children as young as 4, adolescents, and adults.
When there are specific concerns about underlying brain damage or disease, a neuropsychological assessment is often indicated. This would be required in the case of head injury by motor vehicle or other forms of accident, and can also be useful for deriving a comprehensive picture of underlying problems in developmental disorders, learning disabilities, and dementia, like Alzheimer’s.
These assessments examine the relationship between behaviour, emotion, and physiological response. One type of psychophysiological assessment evaluates a person’s stress response-the impact of stress on their muscle tension, heart rate, temperature, respiration, skin conductance (sweating), or blood pressure. This assessment produces a physiological stress profile that helps define the effects of stress and the best interventions for stress management.
A new and exciting development in modern diagnosis involves the use of brain imaging to help us better understand how the brain’s functioning is contributing to a person’s symptoms. One type of imaging measures the brain’s electrical activity, the electroencephalogram or EEG (informally called brain waves).
Quantitative EEG, or QEEG
This is an extension of traditional EEG measurement. Statistical analyses and population norms are used to enhance our analyses of the EEG, and also to construct visual, topographic maps of EEG functioning.
QEEG is a safe and non-invasive assessment. Sensors are first placed on the surface of a person’s scalp. Then, EEG activity is measured under different states and real- world tasks that a person frequently encounters: eyes closed, eyes open, reading, writing, listening, and doing arithmetic. Importantly, in our QEEG assessments, a person’s brain-wave activity is measured during performance of tasks in which the brain is most active, which helps identify problems associated with everyday functioning in school or work.
Many conditions have been studied using QEEG, including ADHD, depression, and learning disabilities. QEEG can help clarify the underlying nature of deficits in behaviour, learning, and emotional functioning, and can thus add critical data for diagnostic decisions and strategies of intervention.
At the Applied Psychology Centre, we use QEEG for another purpose as well: neurofeedback. Neurofeedback is a form of self-regulation training using brain-wave biofeedback to enhance attention, mood, calmness, relaxation, and other forms of self-regulation that are impaired in ADHD, depression, etc. QEEG is sensitive to changes in underlying brain physiology, so we find it useful for objectively assessing the impact of neurofeedback training.