Brain Batteries

A comprehensive neuropsychological test battery should assess the integrity of the entire brain. To assure the thoroughness of the evaluation, the neuropsychologist generally administers a large number of diverse tests to the patient. The tests typically demand different mental or cognitive abilities, which are subserved by different regions of the brain. These different cognitive abilities are commonly referred to as cognitive domains and include functions such as attention, memory, perception, movement, language, and problem solving. A number of comprehensive test batteries have been created to assess the various cognitive domains. The Halstead-Reitan and Luria-Nebraska are two such batteries that have been used to diagnose the location and severity of brain damage in neurological patients.

These batteries consist of a variety of subtests that are believed to tap into different cognitive abilities. For example, the Halstead-Reitan contains subtests that have proved to be helpful in localizing brain damage. This is done by first administering the Halstead-Reitan to a large number of patients with previously diagnosed brain damage. The researcher then looks at those patients with damage to a particular region of the brain (for example, right frontal) and observes which subtests gave them difficulty. By repeating this process on each patient group (left frontal, right posterior, and so on), the researcher can establish norms.

When a patient with suspected damage is tested with the battery, his or her scores can be compared to those in each patient group. Thus, if he or she performs similarly to the right-frontal norms, damage may be diagnosed to this region. While this is an oversimplification, it provides a general model of how test batteries are used in neuropsychology to evaluate patients with suspected brain damage.

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