Possible NFL Draft Picks To Undergo Brain Test


Posted on 27th February 2010 by Gordon Johnson in Uncategorized

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With concern over concussions a hot issue now, potential National Football League draft picks will have to undergo a brain test and face questions about their brain-injury history, according to the Associated Press.


The 329 players coming to a scouting combine in Indianapolis this week will have to take the ImPACT test, a baseline brain activity examination – a first for the NFL.

Doctors can use the information gathered from the test to create a standard way to evaluation players, and to possibly track data on concussions.

The NFL has already made changes to its rules regarding players returning to play after hitting their heads.

The NFL’s competition committee this week saw demonstrations of new helmets that purportedly would be protective against head injuries.

Friday the NFL players’ union will conduct a Player Safety and Welfare Summit in Indianapolis, where companies can come to discuss any gear or services they offer that are supposed to make football safer.

That night, team doctors will meet to talk about new treatment for players. That meeting will include a discussion of head injuries.

Consistent Best Effort


Posted on 4th April 2008 by Gordon Johnson in Uncategorized

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This week I have been discussing the basic principles of neuropsychological assessment, and its two foundational assumptions: the ability to reconstruct pre-morbid IQ and the need for “consistent best effort”. Yesterday’s blog dealt with the pre-morbid IQ. Today, we will discuss the issue of “consistent best effort.”

The number side of the neuropsychological assessment is based upon the theory that a neuropsychologist can make certain conclussions about pathology based upon an examination of the pattern of test scores. The process of doing this is called “discrepancy analysis”, meaning that if there is a discrepancy in certain areas, this points to pathology. Two other terms are important: “relative weakness” and “intraindividual comparison”. If while doing the intraindividual comparision (mean comparing the patient, only to his or her own scores versus the population as a whole) a “relative weakness” shows up, then that means something.

In a perfect world, it is a beautiful theory. You chart the scores, the “relative weakness” jumps out at the neuropsychologist, you look to the part of the brain that controls that area of function, and thus, make a diagnosis. The fundamental problem is that you must be able to presume that the test subject was making the same effort during the test where he or she did poorly, as across the entire battery of tests. But can we make that assumption?

I like to quote from depositions I have done to make these type of points, and I will do that again. My apologies to my son for my references to his middle school running career.

12 Q (By Mr. Johnson) Do you still have your Exhibit Number 1
13 before you?
14 A I do.
15 Q Page 6?
16 A Yes.
17 Q Now, as I understand what you’re saying in the first
18 paragraph of Page 6, what you’re saying is that because you
19 cannot be sure that the patient did not give optimum effort,
20 that you can’t reach conclusions based on the data in those
21 testing — in that testing; is that correct?
22 A I can make certain conclusions, but not on her current
23 status, on that date. That’s what I’m — all I’m trying to say
24 is this set of data had serious reservations because of lack of
25 effort.

1 Q Now, there are any number of things — strike that. Let’s
2 talk about the continuum of effort when you’re giving someone a
3 test; all right? I’ll give you an example.
4 My son, who is a 13 year old, goes out and runs a six-
5 minute mile, and he gave better effort than anyone else in the
6 class if you judge it just based on his performance, because he
7 won the race; okay?
8 A Got you.
9 Q Now, would that be considered best effort?
10 A It was certainly a sufficient effort to be recorded, yes.
11 Q Two months later in a track meet in his conference meet,
12 he’s able to run a five-minute, six-second mile without
13 significant change in this training status. In comparison to
14 the gym class — in comparison to the conference meet time of
15 five minutes and six seconds, did he give best effort in gym
16 class?
17 A There are other variables that have to be considered, and
18 I’d have to know other things. I’m not really following you.
19 Q Okay. Tell me what the variables would be.
20 A Like the environmental conditions, the contingencies if he
21 won or if he didn’t win, the particular mood or attitude that he
22 had on that day, how his physical health was, if he had a cold,
23 if he had some sort of limitation.
24 Q Now, we always have all of those limitations anytime we
25 give someone any type of test; is that correct?

1 A Exactly right.
2 Q If we were going to pick an example of when we might get
3 the highest percentage of people giving maximal effort or
4 optimal effort, is there a better example than the law school
5 admission test?
6 A Well, I’ve never seen the law school admission test, but if
7 it’s like the test that I took to get to graduate school, then
8 one certainly has to do well, as best as they can, yes.
9 Q And can we — if there ever — can we ever presume a higher
10 likelihood of maximum effort in an academic test than we would
11 in something like a law school or a medical college admissions?
12 A Well, I agree. I mean, one can’t do better than one can
13 do.
14 Q But what’s unique about the law school and the medical
15 school admission test, is people’s whole lives revolve around
16 how they do on this test; correct?
17 A Well, that’s probably their interpretation, but it’s not
18 real. They probably think —
19 Q And that thinking that would convince them at least
20 relative to other variables to give it their best shot?
21 A I would think so, yes.
22 Q Despite that, sometimes people who are testing in high-
23 pressure situations like a law school admissions test or a
24 medical college entrance exam, do not wind up at their optimum
25 performance level; correct?

1 A I presume that’s correct.
2 Q And what explanations for that would do?
3 A Again, we just went through some of them. They have a
4 cold, they’re worried about money, they have stress at home,
5 they have stress on the job, I mean, there are all kinds of
6 events that could influence particular effort on a particular
7 day.
8 Q Or actually the stress of the test itself?
9 A Well, yes, of course. There’s some people who don’t do
10 well on tests.
11 Q And there are some people who do worse the more the
12 pressure is?
13 A Right. It’s not really the pressure; it’s how the patient
14 manages the pressure that’s the issue.

Now as we consider this long introduction in the context of the search for “relative weaknesses”, what does that mean? What if our test subject was only using the gym class effort level, versus the conference meet effort level? Can we make statistical comparisons then? Or should we compare that performance to how people do in gym class, and not comparing how they do in more stimulating environments?

Neuropsychology is a science, right? They should have control out all of these variables, right? Guess again, not because they don’t want to, but because they are dealing with human beings, and in brain injury evaluations, human beings who prevented from doing what they are presumed to do, based upon the precise disability for which we are evaluating them: brain damage.

Next: The Scope of the Problem for Brain Injured Person in Giving Consistent Best Effort.

Understanding Neuropsychological Statistics in Diagnosing Brain Injury


Posted on 2nd April 2008 by Gordon Johnson in Uncategorized

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Yesterday’s blog threw out a few numbers to illustrate some basic starting principles about neuropsychology. As an aid to our further discussion of this neuropsychology, today I will give some basic numerical principles to help in further understanding the numeric part of neuropsychological assessment.

First, neuropsych scores are typical given in one of three scoring methods: Standard score, percentile score and T scores. T scores are a little bit too complicated to try to explain to a laymen, so I will limit this discussion to standard scores and convert them to percentile scores.

Most people are somewhat familiar to standard scores, because IQ’s are given in them. Yesterday I used the example of our successful professional who had a post accident IQ of 135. An IQ of 100 is perfectly in the middle. Something below 70 is evidence of significant impairment. Each time you move down the standard score grid by 10 points, it represents a significant drop.

Here are the basic categories of Standard scores, with their percentile equivalents.

Very superior — 130 and above — 98% and above
Superior __ 120 to 129 — 92% to 97%
High Average — 110 to 119 — 76% to 91%
Average — 90 to 109 — 25% to 75%
Low Average — 80 to 89 — 8% to 24%
Borderline — 70 to 79 — 3% to 7%
Impaired — below 70 — 2% and below

T scores use the same basic concept, and again using 10 points as the break point, but with a T score, the mid point is 50. Some neuropsychologists may disagree as to the exact point that separates these categories, but this is certainly representative of the concept.

The second term to understand in terms of understanding the statistical analysis done by a neuropsychologist is the concept of “deviations”. While I am incapable of synthesizing the dozens of different explanations of this concept into one cohesive definition, in essence, when you move from one category like very superior, to superior, you have moved one deviation. When you move from very superior to high average, that would be two deviations. Movements of two deviations are deemed to be significant.

Yesterday’s example of an IQ score of 135, which was very superior, to an average processing speed score of 100, is a movement of three standard deviations. That could be quite significant, but of course is only one factor to be looked at in doing a full blown “assessment.”

Tomorrow: assessing premorbid IQ and other ability levels.

Neuropsychological Assessment to Establish Brain Injury


Posted on 1st April 2008 by Gordon Johnson in Uncategorized

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In yesterday’s blog, I talked about the essentials prerequisites to proving to a jury that a plaintiff is disabled by brain injury. I said there:

  • “Now, we have more cases than we did in 1996 where the neuroimaging is abnormal. Yet, we still must show the same things: an accident with the potential to injure the brain, acute evidence that the brain was injured, deficits that can be determined in how a person functions and a CHANGED PERSON. Neuroimaging adds to the equation, but doesn’t eliminate any of the other issues. The only thing I would seriously change from what I said in 1996 is that there are other ways in addition to neuropsychological assessment, that deficits in ways in which the brain are working, can be identified.”
The big change in the way I look at the structure of a brain injury case than I did when I started in this field nearly 20 years ago, is that I don’t see pure discrepancy analysis within a neuropsychological test battery to show relative deficits, as the cornerstone to diagnosis. That is a lot of jargon; let me explain what I mean. First some terms:

Neuropsychologist: is a not an M.D., but a Ph.D. in psychology, who has typically finished a post doctoral fellowship and training in neuropsychology, which is essentially the field of brain behavior and assessment.

Neuropsychological assessment begins with the administration of a battery of psychometric tests. Then the neurospcyhologist will do an analysis of the pattern of the test scores, the clinical interview of the patient and known potential traumatic or disease processes, to make an assessment as to what pathology may exist in the brain, and from what potential causes.

Discrepancy analysis is the technical, statistical analysis of the neuropsychological test battery to determine whether there are relative weaknesses in an intraindividual comparison, upon which conclusions about pathology can be made.

An intraindividual comparison is a method of determining whether or not a portion of a brain is performing abnormaly for that person, based on the pattern of tests scores, primarily within the specific battery of tests that are being performed at that time.

A relative weakness is a test score on a specific test within the battery where the score is sufficiently lower than other tests, that it shows that a particular part of the brain may be functioning in a pathologically changed way.

All of these technical terms and approaches are usually necessary because only in rare cases does an individual have previous neuropsychological assessments that precede their injury or disease. It is thru these technical approaches to evaluations, that a neuropsychologist can make determinations of pathology, without prior batteries to contrast current testing with.

To demonstrate how the statistical part of the assessment would work lets assume a simple example – focusing on a small part of the test battery. Let us assume we are assessing a very smart professional, who had excelled throughout his or her academic life, obtaining an advanced degree and always testing at the high end of all standardized tests.

One of the key elements to all neuropsychological assessments is the administration of the IQ test. Our hypothetical individual does as expected and receives an IQ score of 135, which is considered very superior. (More on the categories of achievement levels in tomorrow’s blog.) In contrast, when given tests which measure this individuals processing speed, the score was 100, which is still average, but is more than 35 points lower than the IQ score. If this person’s processing speed was compared to all individual’s, the score would be considered normal. But if Discrepancy Analysis is used to make an intraindividual comparison of the IQ score to the processing speed score, that person would be found to have a relative weakness. That relative weakness could begin to form the basis of an opinion about pathology, and perhaps pathology related to a specific event.

The key issue in engaging in formal discrepancy analysis would be a determination of how rare it is for someone with a 135 IQ to have a 35 point difference between that score and the processing speed.

One piece of this puzzle that most neuropsychologists would not mention, but I personally find significant, is that if this individual had consistently been in the top few percentiles on standardized testing, we can almost presume that they were capable of fast thinking. If you don’t think fast, you don’t get high scores on college or graduate school admissions tests.

But my practical approach contrasted to the technical approach of most neuropsychologists, is symptomatic of another major schism in the field: the method used to determine pre-morbid (pre-injury or disease) abilities.

More on these issues later this week.