Assessing Thinking, Function, and Senses

A neurological examination looks at how well your brain and the rest of your nervous system are functioning. Every time your doctor taps your knee with a hammer to see if your foot jumps, that's part of a neurological exam.

If you have spells that may be seizures, your primary doctor probably will send you to see a neurologist, a doctor who specializes in the brain and nervous system. The neurologist will perform a complete neurological exam to find out whether an area of your brain is functioning abnormally.

  • Usually the neurologist will first ask you about problems you may have experienced that could be a sign of a brain disorder.
  • The neurologist also will test the functioning of your muscles, your senses, and your reflexes, and will look for any problems with your walking or coordination.
  • Another part of the exam is a test of your mental functions, such as the ability to remember words, do arithmetic, and name objects.

During follow-up visits, the neurologist often will perform a brief version of the exam again to see if anything has changed. If the dosage of your seizure medicine is too high, for instance, this exam may reveal unwanted side effects, such as:

  • Slurred speech
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Difficulty walking a straight line
  • Jerking eye movements when you look to one side
  • Trembling when your arms are outstretched

If the neurologist finds signs like these, the dosage of medicine may need to be reduced.

The neurologist may be examining you even while you are just talking. The doctor can assess your mood, thinking, language, eye and facial movements, strength, coordination, and many other features just by carefully listening and observing you.



Authored By: 
Carl W. Bazil MD, PhD
Joseph I. Sirven MD
Reviewed By: 
Joseph I. Sirven MD
Patty Obsorne Shafer RN, MN
Thursday, August 22, 2013