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What Should I Expect from a Neurological Test?

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  • Written By: Emma Lloyd
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 25 November 2016
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A neurological test is the means a physician or neurologist uses to test a person’s neurological function. The test is designed to assess sensory skills, motor skills, speech, hearing, vision, balance, coordination, and mood. A neurological examination can be carried out by a physician, but in some cases a specialist may be needed to administer tests and interpret the results. These types of tests are used to diagnose a wide range of neurological disorders. Genetic disorders such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and Huntington’s disease, as well as brain tumors and traumatic injuries, can be assessed and diagnosed with neurological tests.

The neurological test is usually carried out in several separate stages, each of which tests different nervous system functions. In the mental status portion of the test, for example, the patient will answer a number of questions that examines their mood and thoughts, their awareness, and facets of their intellectual capacity such as speech, language, memory, and judgment. During this part of the test, the patient’s behavior is also being noted for particular types of emotional or behavioral responses.

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Other parts of the neurological test examine the patient’s nervous, motor, and sensory systems. One of the most important is the cranial nerves test, which investigates physical functions such as peripheral vision, the gag reflex, smell and taste, and sensation in the head and neck area. In the motor system test, the patient’s muscle function is examined for signs of atrophy or abnormal movements which might indicate abnormalities.

To examine the sensory system, the physician or neurologist will look at responses to pain, pressure, temperature, and other stimuli. This part of the neurological test is usually repeated at least once to ensure the results are accurate. Reflexes and coordination are tested in similar fashion. In coordination tests, for example, the patient is asked to move their fingers or other parts of the body in various ways, with the physician noting how well the patient can carry out these requests.

During a neurological test, it is crucial that the person being tested is as accurate as possible with their responses to test questions. Inaccurate answers may lead to an inaccurate diagnosis, and since many neurological disorders are progressive in nature this may mean a patient does not get vital medical help that he or she needs immediately. For the same reason, anyone undergoing such a test should make sure they do not omit any information from their answers, even if it may seem inconsequential.

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