If your doctor has referred you to a neurologist, it is highly likely that you will be given a neurological exam at your first appointment. Knowing what this exam involves can help to relieve any anxiety you may have about your appointment. Below is a guide to the different tests the neurologist will carry out during the exam.
Memory and cognitive function
The doctor will ask you to complete simple language and maths tests. This will allow the doctor to check if a neurological condition is affecting your cognitive function. You will then be asked a series of memory questions, concerning yourself. This allows the neurologist to check if your working memory and long-term memory is functioning as it should.
Mobility and coordination
Neurological problems can also make it very difficult for people to coordinate their movements. This is because the message from the brain to the muscles are disrupted or blocked. During your neurological exam, the doctor will ask you to perform some simple movements such as lifting your arms, wiggling your fingers and flexing your toes. They may also ask you to do up some buttons on a shirt or to copy a passage of writing by hand. This will allow the doctor to assess your fine motor skills. Finally, the doctor will test your reflexes. A reflex is an automatic movement trigger when a nerve in the body is triggered. The most famous reflex is the 'knee jerk'. The doctor will use a small rubber hammer to tap just below your kneecap. This tap causes your lower part of the leg to jerk and straighten for a moment and will allow the neurologist to check that certain nerves are working as they should be.
Often, neurological problems will manifest themselves in some other part of the body. This is because the cranial nerves which control eye movement and vision, your ability to smell, hear, are located in the brain. If one of these nerves is damaged, it may make it difficult to perform specific tasks. During your neurological exam, the doctor will ask you to perform several tasks which will test that each of the cranial nerves is working as it should be. For example, they may ask you to smell various scents and to describe what they smell like. If your olfactory nerve which is responsible for your sense of smell is damaged, you may not be able to distinguish each scent. They will also carry out an eye exam to check your vision. You will then be asked to listen to a range of different tones using headphones. Every time you hear a tone, you will be asked to press a button. This will allow the neurologist to check the condition of the nerve which carries audio information.
Once a neurologist has carried out these tests, they will be able to advise you of a diagnosis and any further treatment or brain surgery you require.