Christopher Benjamin, PhD, is a neuropsychologist who evaluates patients with a range of neurological disorders at Yale Medicine’s Epilepsy Program. During a clinical evaluation, Dr. Benjamin may spend up to five hours with a patient gathering detailed information about her or his health history and background.
“What is unique about neuropsychologists is that—besides measuring memory, attention, and language—we want to understand what a person’s day-to-day life is like,” Dr. Benjamin says. “We want to understand how their thinking skills are affecting their relationships with others, with their partner, with their children, and then we put all of those aspects together to really try and work out what the best treatment is for the patient.”
He enjoys being able to sit with patients for a substantial block of time to get an accurate understanding of their thinking skills, and to not rush the testing process. “I really try to put patients at ease while trying to understand their difficulties,” Dr. Benjamin says. “We can only start to understand someone’s unique situation if they allow us to do so.”
In a typical exam, Dr. Benjamin conducts testing to measure how memory, attention, or language relate to different parts of a patient’s brain. These measurements can show how the brain of a patient suffering from epilepsy might be affected by seizures. The damaged area of the brain can reveal itself through these tests, Dr. Benjamin explains. “For patients considering neurosurgery, which has the potential to cure some forms of epilepsy, the testing we do can predict if there is any risk to a patient’s thinking skills,” he says.
Dr. Benjamin also conducts functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) on patients with epilepsy, while conducting cognitive tests, in order to map the brain’s language areas.
In his research, Dr. Benjamin focuses on using neuropsychological testing and fMRI to improve neurosurgical planning. He hopes to help bring his field to the point where they can tell patients exactly what their life will look like after surgery, so they can decide on the care they want.
Dr. Benjamin is an assistant professor of neurology, of neurosurgery and of psychology at Yale School of Medicine.