Neuropsychological Assessment of Dementia
Department of Psychiatry and Joseph & Kathleen Bryan Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center-Division of Neurology, Department of Medicine, Duke University Medical Center,
Durham, North Carolina, U.S.A.
Neuropsychological assessment plays an important part in the differential diagnosis of dementing
disorders, particularly in clinically ambiguous situations (e.g., suspected early dementia) and in the
context of confounding factors, such as the presence of a superimposed depression or advanced age
(1,2). Within the medical evaluation of dementia, the neuropsychological evaluation provides
unique information in the form of a “behavioral sample” that can be used to determine in an
objective, quantifiable manner the presence of cognitive symptoms and their functional
significance. To accomplish these basic aims, the neuropsychological examination employs
rigorous, standardized psychometric tests of memory and cognitive function and relies heavily on
the application of normative standards and on a fundamental understanding of brain function. The
examination results in metric values for discrete cognitive and behavioral capacities, which can
then be used by the examining clinician to arrive at diagnostic inferences, to make judgments of
functional abilities, and to establish a benchmark for monitoring future change and responsiveness
to medical treatments and therapies.