General Medical Conditions
Neuropsychology focuses on how learning and behaviors are associated with brain development, organization, and functioning. A range of general medical conditions can impact brain organization and functioning, and a neuropsychological assessment can be helpful to highlight possible complications resulting from medical conditions. Common conditions can include Pulmonary Disorders, Cardiovascular Diseases, Diabetes, and Thyroid Disorders.
The human brain requires an adequate oxygen supply for optimal operation, and pulmonary disorders can disrupt cognitive performance. For example, COPD, asthma, and sleep apnea can result in decreased attention and processing speed, and impair attention and memory. Some individuals with pulmonary disorders report difficulty with problem solving, planning, and executive functioning.
Cardiovascular diseases (e.g., hypertension, high cholesterol) can impact learning, memory, abstract reasoning, and coordinated movements. Hypertension, a common condition that effects a majority of individuals, can impact cognitive performance. Furthermore, cardiovascular diseases and diabetes are highly comorbid. Type 1 diabetes is associated with decreased attention, difficulty with learning and memory, and can impair motor speed. Type 2 diabetes also is associated with learning and memory, and can impact attention and problem solving.
Thyroid dysfunction is associated with cognitive impairment, and a possible risk factor for developing dementia. Hyperthyroidism has been linked to development of mood disorders (e.g., anxiety, depression). Also, hyperthyroidism is associated with decreased attention and concentration, and appears to affect the regions of the brain related to cognitive and emotional regulation. Hypothyroidism also has been linked to experiencing cognitive impairment, such as working memory difficulties, slowed reaction time, and decreased processing speed.
Neuropsychological assessments can be used to identify possible impaired functioning related to experiencing a general medical condition. Also, the data from the assessment can provide insight on developing treatment strategies tailored for an individual's specific strengths and deficits.