Mclean Hospital

Psychological Testing Service Addresses Cognitive Functions, Academic Testing Accommodations, and More

September 2, 2018

McLean Hospital’s Neuropsychological and Psychological Testing Service provides diagnostic testing and evaluations of memory, concentration, problem solving, judgment, emotional functioning, personality, and more. Housed at McLean’s Belmont, Massachusetts, campus, the service is open to individuals age 16 and older.

According to Donald A. Davidoff, PhD, chief of McLean Hospital’s Neuropsychology Department and one of the leaders of the testing program, the service builds on McLean’s long history of conducting psychological tests. “Testing has a tradition going back to the turn of the last century at McLean when we founded the first psychometric lab in the country to measure cognition and knowledge,” he stated. Testing has been a regular part of the inpatient service since the 1960s, he said, and the hospital’s Neuropsychology Department has been offering outpatient neuropsychological and psychological testing since 1994.

Testing at McLean
Neuropsychological and Psychological Testing Service has a long history of supporting patients at McLean

Through the Neuropsychological and Psychological Testing Service, individuals can tap into the hospital’s deep testing expertise and years of experience.

“Our tests are designed to break down cognitive functions,” Davidoff explained. “They are mostly for diagnostic assessment. We try to rule out a disorder or examine a cognitive difficulty and determine whether the problem is organic or neuropsychological.”

To do this, the service offers tests ranging from being read lists of words and repeating them back, paper-and-pencil exams, drawing simple and complex designs, and engaging in a sit-down interview with a doctor. In some cases, comprehensive tests are conducted over a two-day period.

Among the types of tests conducted at McLean are those designed to help individuals who are not progressing in therapy. “Someone who is not moving forward in their therapy may be referred to the testing service to determine if there are cognitive issues that are getting in the way,” Davidoff said. “Our diagnostic testing can reveal pathological complexities (underlying diseases or symptoms in the brain or body), serving as a guide to psychiatric and medical intervention and help determine what kinds of medications to prescribe.”

Testing at the service can also help a person better understand their strengths and vulnerabilities following an injury or illness.

“Someone who has had a major brain injury, perhaps because of an accident, may want to better understand their capabilities and find out how much they have recovered their functions,” said Davidoff.

The service’s tests have helped individuals recovering from strokes, addiction, or hypoxic events, and individuals living with Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, or other conditions get a better sense of their current capabilities. “We are good at teasing out what the individual is capable of and helping with diagnoses,” Davidoff said.

The service also specializes in tests that help determine whether individuals would benefit from accommodations for taking standardized tests like the SAT, GRE, MCAT, LSAT, GMAT, or ACT because of a cognitive problem, anxiety disorder, or other concern. Such accommodations may include extra time for taking the test or taking the test in a quiet room. Davidoff said that McLean’s testing service can supply the necessary documentation for obtaining accommodations.

Given McLean Hospital’s years of neuropsychological and psychological testing experience, Davidoff continues to be excited about the opportunity to help individuals learn more about their conditions and get the help they need.

“The key to good treatment is good diagnosis,” he said. “And we are the pros when it comes to diagnosis.”