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Steven M. Essig, Psy.D., Director

Diana Bronshteyn, Psy.D.
Raphael Wald, Psy.D., ABN

Forensic Neuropsychology

What is a Forensic Neuropsychological Evaluation?

A forensic neuropsychological evaluation is a comprehensive assessment of cognitive, behavioral, and personality functions in the context of a civil or criminal legal matter.

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When is a Forensic Neuropsychological Evaluation Needed?

A forensic neuropsychological evaluation is recommended for any civil or criminal case in which brain-based impairment in cognitive function or behavior is suspected.
Forensic neuropsychological evaluations are commonly utilized for the identification and quantification of brain damage in civil cases involving claims of traumatic brain injury. Issues such as causation and permanence of observed deficits, as well as need for future care, can be addressed.  A neuropsychological evaluation can assist greatly in planning educational and vocational programs.
Forensic neuropsychological evaluations are also often instrumental in criminal cases where issues of competence to stand trial, cognitive capacity at the time of the alleged crime, and presence of mitigating factors for sentencing purposes are involved.
Another growing arena for the use of forensic neuropsychological evaluations is in the field of estate planning (i.e., wills and trusts). Where the testamentary capacity of an individual at the time of execution is or might be called into question at some later date, a neuropsychological evaluation performed contemporaneously with the execution of the documents can be used to establish his or her cognitive capacity at that time.

What is involved in a Forensic Neuropsychological Evaluation?

A thorough forensic neuropsychological evaluation should generally include the following:

Interview of patient and collateral sources regarding medical, behavioral, psychological, social, academic, employment, and developmental history as well as current complaints and observations.

  • Review of academic records
  • Review of relevant medical records
  • Review of employment records
  • Review of current medication and past psychoactive medications
  • Detailed mental status examination
  • Formal neuropsychological testing examining current cognitive abilities and psychological status

What cognitive functions are assessed in a Forensic Neuropsychological Evaluation?

Utilizing standardized, objective, norm-based tests and procedures, various cognitive and psychological functions are systematically tested, including, but not limited to:

  • Intelligence
  • Problem solving and conceptualization
  • Planning and organization
  • Mental Flexibility and Multitasking
  • Attention and Concentration
  • Speed of Information Processing
  • Memory and Learning
  • Receptive and Expressive Language
  • Visuospatial skills
  • Academic skills
  • Perceptual and motor abilities
  • Emotions, behavior, and personality
  • Effort and Symptom Validity

Who is Qualified to Conduct a Forensic Neuropsychological Evaluation?

A neuropsychological evaluation can only be done by a licensed psychologist who has had specialized training and experience in the field, which include:

  • Predoctoral training in psychology and neuropsychology which includes an organized graduate course of study in neuropsychology.
  • Formal postdoctoral training focusing on brain-behavior relationships and neuropsychological assessment.

The examiner should be well qualified in both forensic psychology and clinical neuropsychology. The approach and batteries used should be capable of meeting legal standards for admissibility in legal proceedings.

The director of South Florida Neuropsychology, Steven M. Essig, J.D., Psy.D., is a licensed psychologist with specialized training in neuropsychology.  In addition, Dr. Essig was a practicing civil litigation attorney for approximately 10 years before obtaining his doctoral degree in psychology.  His background, training, and experience in both law and neuropsychology make him uniquely qualified to conduct forensic neuropsychological evaluations and to present his findings in legal proceedings.