FAA Neuropsychological Evaluations

Dr. John Matthew Fabian serves as a consultant with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in conducting pilot candidate, pilot, and air traffic control psychological and neuropsychological evaluations.  Dr. Fabian is a qualified neuropsychologist with additional training in aviation-specific topics.

A neuropsychological evaluation may be required by the FAA due to neurological conditions such as head injury, stroke, vascular conditions, encephalitis, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, HIV-seropositive, chemical dependency, neurodevelopmental conditions such as ADHD as well as a history of being prescribed SSRI psychiatric medications that may produce neurocognitive deficits that would make an airman unsafe to perform pilot duties.

The FAA neuropsychological evaluation process typically includes the following:

  1. Reviewing available records including academic, psychiatric, medical, mental health, and substance use
  2. Conducting a thorough clinical interview assessing the FAA examinee’s psychosocial and developmental problems; academic and employment performance; psychiatric, medical, and chemical dependency history; legal issues; and aviation background
  3. Conducting a mental status and behavioral observations examination
  4. Conducting psychological and neuropsychological testing with the FAA examinee
  5. Authoring a psychological and neuropsychological evaluation integrating testing results (including CogScreen-Aeromedical Edition) with examinee’s history, psychiatric diagnoses, and any functional impairments that may be aeromedically significant
  6. Providing the psychological and neuropsychological report to applicable FAA mental health personnel and consulting with them regarding clinically and aeromedically significant findings that may potentially impact aviation safety within the FAA regulations

Neuropsychological assessment is critical pertaining to neurocognitive skillsets that are relevant to the demands of flight and air traffic control such as auditory and visual attention, sustained attention, distractibility, memory, visuospatial perception, auditory perception, processing speed, rapid motor reflexes, and executive functioning such as decision making, and impulse control.

CogScreen-Aeromedical Edition is a computer-administered assessment instrument specifically developed for the FAA and examines neurocognitive functioning that is applicable to real life flight skills.  The test is well researched regarding CogScreen variables that are predictive of actual and simulated flight performance in aviation.

It is essential that the pilot exhibits solid neurocognitive skills essentially for skilled aviation performance.  Several skills critical for pilot performance include perceptual-motor abilities, spatial abilities, working memory, attentional performance, processing flexibility, and planning/sequencing abilities.

Research studies confirm that effective neuropsychological evaluations are a reliable means for predicting piloting and decision-making performance.  There is a critical nexus between aviation safety and neurocognitive abilities, especially executive functioning, and neuropsychological assessment is the only mechanism to reliably identify deficits in these abilities.

Dr. Fabian is in regular contact consulting with the FAA neuropsychological professionals pertaining to individual performances by pilots he examines to best conceptualize their case, arrive at correct psychiatric diagnose(s), interpret neurocognitive functioning capacity for optimal flight performance,  and determine if further testing may be required.