This joint position paper of the American Academy of Clinical Neuropsychology and the National Academy of Neuropsychology sets forth our position on appropriate standards and conventions for computerized neuropsychological assessment devices (CNADs). In this paper, we first define CNADs and distinguish them from examiner-administered neuropsychological instruments. We then set forth position statements on eight key issues relevant to the development and use of CNADs in the healthcare setting. These statements address (a) device marketing and performance claims made by developers of CNADs; (b) issues involved in appropriate end-users for administration and interpretation of CNADs; (c) technical (hardware/software/firmware) issues; (d) privacy, data security, identity verification, and testing environment; (e) psychometric development issues, especially reliability, and validity; (f) cultural, experiential, and disability factors affecting examinee interaction with CNADs; (g) use of computerized testing and reporting services; and (h) the need for checks on response validity and effort in the CNAD environment. This paper is intended to provide guidance for test developers and users of CNADs that will promote accurate and appropriate use of computerized tests in a way that maximizes clinical utility and minimizes risks of misuse. The positions taken in this paper are put forth with an eye toward balancing the need to make validated CNADs accessible to otherwise underserved patients with the need to ensure that such tests are developed and utilized competently, appropriately, and with due concern for patient welfare and quality of care.
Computerized testing; Neurocognition; Neuropsychological test validity
Repeated assessments are a relatively common occurrence in clinical neuropsychology. The current paper will review some of the relevant concepts (e.g., reliability, practice effects, alternate forms) and methods (e.g., reliable change index, standardized based regression) that are used in repeated neuropsychological evaluations. The focus will be on the understanding and application of these concepts and methods in the evaluation of the individual patient through examples. Finally, some future directions for assessing change will be described.
Reliable change; Practice effects; Assessment
Late-life minor depression (miD) is a prevalent but poorly understood illness. Verbal learning and memory profiles have commonly been used to characterize neuropsychiatric disorders. This study compared the performance of 27 older adults with miD on the California Verbal Learning Test (CVLT) with 26 age-matched individuals with Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) and 36 non-depressed controls. Results revealed that the miD group performed comparably with controls and significantly better than the MDD group on several CVLT indices. Moreover, cluster analysis revealed three distinct groups, consistent with theoretical representations of “normal,” “subcortical,” and “cortical” verbal learning and memory profiles. The majority of the miD group showed “normal” profiles (74%), whereas most individuals with MDD displayed “subcortical” profiles (54%). The findings suggest that depression in the elderly is a heterogeneous entity and that the CVLT may be a useful tool for characterizing learning and memory in late-onset depressive disorders.
Depression; Minor; Elderly; Late-onset; CVLT; Verbal learning and memory
This study assessed the clinical utility of contrast sensitivity (CS) relative to attention, executive function, and visuospatial abilities for predicting driving safety in participants with Parkinson's disease (PD). Twenty-five, non-demented PD patients completed measures of contrast sensitivity, visuospatial skills, executive functions, and attention. All PD participants also underwent a formal on-road driving evaluation. Of the 25 participants, 11 received a marginal or unsafe rating on the road test. Poorer driving performance was associated with worse performance on measures of CS, visuospatial constructions, set shifting, and attention. While impaired driving was associated with a range of cognitive and visual abilities, only a composite measure of executive functioning and visuospatial abilities, and not CS or attentional skills, predicted driving performance. These findings suggest that neuropsychological tests, which are multifactorial in nature and require visual perception and visual spatial judgments are the most useful screening measures for hazardous driving in PD patients.
Contrast sensitivity; Executive function; Visuospatial; Activities of daily living
Executive dysfunction is correlated with disability in tasks of daily living. Less is known about the relationship between cognition, particularly executive dysfunction, and physical performance. This study investigated how executive ability, measured by the Trail Making Test, Part B (TMT-B), Controlled Oral Word Association test (COWA) and Animal Naming (AN), related to completion of physical tasks on the Short Physical Performance Battery (SPPB). The sample included 68 urban-dwelling Black adults ages 59–95. AN and TMT-B accounted for 6.2% and 7.1% of the variance, respectively, in SPPB total score after controlling for general cognitive functioning (Mini Mental Status Exam) and demographics. COWA and the MMSE did not obtain significance. Only the TMT-B remained significant after accounting for illness burden. Findings suggest that executive ability is related to physical performance in older urban Black adults more than general cognitive functioning. This relationship is attenuated by illness burden.
Disability; Executive function; Short Physical Performance Battery; Cognition; Older adults
The current study provided longitudinal robust norms for individuals age 70 years and older for several neuropsychological tests. We compared baseline neuropsychological test performance in three groups free of dementia at baseline: a robust normative sample free of dementia for at least two post-follow-up assessments, an incident dementia sample which developed new onset dementia during the follow-up and a lost to follow-up (LTF) sample. ANCOVAs showed that the robust sample performed better on all neuropsychological tests compared to the incident dementia and LTF samples. These findings support the argument that individuals in transition to developing dementia may reduce the mean, increase the variability and therefore underestimate cognitive performance in normal aging. We suggest that longitudinal robust norms may help mitigate the limitations inherent in cross-sectional normative samples.
Aging; Norms; Dementia; Attrition
Although initially developed as a brief dementia battery, the Repeatable Battery for the Assessment of Neuropsychological Status (RBANS) has not yet demonstrated its sensitivity, specificity, and positive and negative predictive powers in detecting cognitive impairment in patients with Alzheimer's disease (AD). Therefore, the current study examined the clinical utility of the RBANS by comparing two age-, education-, and gender-matched groups: patients with AD (n=69) and comparators (n=69). Significant differences (p<0.001) were observed on the RBANS Total score, all 5 Indexes, and all 12 subtests, with patients performing worse than the comparison participants. An optimal balance between sensitivity and specificity on RBANS scores was obtained when cutoffs of one and one and a half standard deviations below the mean of the comparison sample were implemented. Areas under the Receiver Operating Characteristic curves for all RBANS Indexes were impressive though Immediate and Delayed Memory Indexes were excellent (0.96 and 0.98, respectively). Results suggest that RBANS scores yield excellent estimates of diagnostic accuracy and that the RBANS is a useful screening tool in detection of cognitive deficits associated with AD.
Alzheimer's disease; Dementia; Diagnostic accuracy; Repeatable Battery for the Assessment of Neuropsychological Status
Previous studies, in which cognitive and motor neuropsychological tasks were administered to 816 children from Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)- and control-families, showed that various of these measures appeared useful for genetic research in ADHD by forming candidate endophenotypes: underlying, heritable, vulnerability traits that mark an enhanced liability for developing ADHD. The current study extends these findings by showing that six of these ten measures correlate more strongly between siblings than an ADHD composite, suggesting these measures may have a larger heritability than ADHD itself. Significant sibling cross-correlations also suggested that six of ten neuropsychological measures related to similar familial (and heritable) factors as ADHD, suggesting these measures to be useful for ADHD genetic research. An aggregated neuropsychological composite appeared to be the most powerful, since it correlated more strongly between siblings than most individual task measures. These findings suggest heritability research in ADHD will probably be facilitated by including neuropsychological measures.
Endophenotype; Phenotype; ADHD; Heritability; Neuropsychology; Siblings
The serial position effect shows that two interrelated cognitive processes underlie immediate recall of a supraspan word list. The current study used item response theory (IRT) methods to determine whether the serial position effect poses a threat to the construct validity of immediate list recall as a measure of verbal episodic memory. Archival data were obtained from a national sample of 4,212 volunteers aged 28–84 in the Midlife Development in the United States study. Telephone assessment yielded item-level data for a single immediate recall trial of the Rey Auditory Verbal Learning Test (RAVLT). Two parameter logistic IRT procedures were used to estimate item parameters and the Q1 statistic was used to evaluate item fit. A two-dimensional model better fit the data than a unidimensional model, supporting the notion that list recall is influenced by two underlying cognitive processes. IRT analyses revealed that 4 of the 15 RAVLT items (1, 12, 14, and 15) were misfit (p < .05). Item characteristic curves for items 14 and 15 decreased monotonically, implying an inverse relationship between the ability level and the probability of recall. Elimination of the four misfit items provided better fit to the data and met necessary IRT assumptions. Performance on a supraspan list learning test is influenced by multiple cognitive abilities; failure to account for the serial position of words decreases the construct validity of the test as a measure of episodic memory and may provide misleading results. IRT methods can ameliorate these problems and improve construct validity.
Learning and memory; Assessment; Statistical methods
The Effort Index (EI) of the Repeatable Battery for the Assessment of Neuropsychological Status (RBANS) was developed to identify inadequate effort. Although researchers have examined its validity, the reliability of the EI has not been evaluated. The current study examined the temporal stability of the EI across 1 year in two independent samples of older adults. One sample consisted of 445 cognitively intact older adults (mean age = 72.89; 59% having 12–15 years of education) and the second sample consisted of 51 individuals diagnosed with amnestic Mild Cognitive Impairment (mean age = 82.41; 41% having 12–15 years of education). For both samples, the EI was found to have low stability (Spearman's ρ = .32–.36). When participants were divided into those whose EI stayed stable or improved versus those whose EI worsened (i.e., declining effort) on retesting, it was observed that individuals with lower baseline RBANS Total scores tended to worsen on the EI across time. Overall, the findings suggest low temporal stability of the EI in two geriatric samples. In particular, individuals with poorer cognition at baseline could present with poorer effort across time. These findings also suggest the need to further examine the temporal stability of other effort measures.
Malingering/symptom validity testing; Elderly/geriatrics/aging; Mild cognitive impairment
Individuals with substance use disorders (SUDs) commonly report lapses in prospective memory (PM) in their daily lives; however, our understanding of the profile and predictors of laboratory-based PM deficits in SUDs and their associations with everyday PM failures is still very preliminary. The current study examined these important questions using well-validated measures of self-report and laboratory-based PM in a mixed cohort of 53 SUD individuals at treatment entry and 44 healthy adults. Consistent with prior research, the SUD group endorsed significantly more self-cued and environmentally based PM failures in their daily lives. Moreover, the SUD group demonstrated significantly lower time-based PM performance, driven largely by cue detection errors. The effect of SUDs on PM was particularly strong among participants with fewer years of education. Within the SUD cohort, time-based PM was correlated with clinical measures assessing executive functions, retrospective memory, and psychomotor speed. Importantly, time-based PM was uniquely associated with elevated PM failures in daily lives of the SUD participants, independent of current affective distress and other neurocognitive deficits. Findings suggest that individuals with SUD are vulnerable to deficits in PM, which may in turn increase their risk for poorer everyday functioning outcomes (e.g., treatment non-compliance).
Episodic memory; Polydrug abuse; Drug rehabilitation; Activities of daily living; Neuropsychological assessment
The Iowa Gambling Task (IGT) is assumed to measure executive functioning, but this has not been empirically tested by means of both convergent and discriminant validity. We used structural equation modeling (SEM) to test whether the IGT is an executive function (EF) task (convergent validity) and whether it is not related to other neuropsychological domains (discriminant validity). Healthy community-dwelling participants (N = 214) completed a comprehensive neuropsychological battery. We analyzed the conventional IGT metric and three alternative metrics based on the overall difference of advantageous minus disadvantageous choices made during the last 60 IGT responses and advantageous minus disadvantageous choices based on two specific decks of cards (D minus A). An a priori six-factor hierarchical model of neuropsychological functioning was confirmed with SEM. Attention and processing speed were grouped as “non-associative” factors. Fluency, executive functioning, visual learning/memory, and verbal learning/memory were grouped as higher-level “associative” factors. Of the non-associative factors, attention, but not speed, predicted IGT performance. When each associative factor was entered along with attention, only EF improved the model fit and that was only for metrics based on trials 41–100. SEM indicates metrics based on trails 1–100 are influenced by attention, and metrics based on trails 41–100 are influenced by attention and EF. Its associative strength with attention is twice that of EF. Conceptually, the IGT is a multi-trait task involving novel problem-solving and attentional domains to a greater extent, and executive functioning to a lesser extent.
Iowa Gambling Task; Decision-making; Executive function; Neuropsychological evaluation; Structural equation modeling
Formulae to estimate premorbid memory functioning in a sample of cognitively intact older adults have been developed. These formulae were validated in a small sample of patients with amnestic Mild Cognitive Impairment. However, further validation is clearly needed. The current study applied these formulae to a sample of 1,059 patients referred to a dementia clinic and compared the premorbid estimates of memory functioning with current memory abilities. Large and statistically significant differences were observed in the current sample, with premorbid memory scores exceeding current memory scores. Although some cautions should be observed when using these estimates clinically, growing support for these estimates of premorbid memory abilities may aid clinicians in determining change across time in older patients.
Predicting cognition; Learning and memory; Assessment
Use of normative data stratified by education may result in misclassification of African American older adults because reading ability, an estimate of educational attainment, is lower than reported years of education for some African American elders. This study examined the contribution of reading ability versus education to neuropsychological test performance in 86 community-dwelling African American elders ages 56–91 with 8–18 years of education. Hierarchical multiple regression analyses revealed that reading ability, but not education, was significantly associated with performances on the Trail Making Test, Controlled Oral Word Association Test, Animal Naming, Digit Span, and the Stroop test. Reading ability was not significantly related to performances on measures of memory. Medium to large effect sizes (Cohen's d = 0.58–1.41) were found when comparing mean performances on neuropsychological measures in groups with low versus high reading scores. Results indicate that reading ability contributes beyond educational attainment to performances on some neuropsychological measures among African American elders. These findings have implications for reducing misclassification among minority populations through the use of appropriate normative data.
Assessment; Elderly; Geriatrics; Aging; Norms; Normative studies
This study examined the association between recent trends in CD4 and viral loads and cognitive test performance with the expectation that recent history could predict cognitive performance. Eighty-three human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-infected patients with a mean CD4 count of 428 copies/ml were examined in this study (62% with undetectable plasma viral load [PVL]). We investigated the relationships between nadir CD4 cell count, 1-year trends in immunologic function/PVLs, and cognitive performance across several domains using linear regression models. Nadir CD4 cell count was predictive of current executive function (p = .004). One year clinical history for CD4 cell counts and/or PVLs were predictive of executive function, attention/working memory, and learning/memory measures (p < .05). Models that combined recent clinical history trends and nadir CD4 cell counts suggested that recent clinical trends were more important in predicting current cognitive performance for all domains except executive function. This research suggests that recent CD4 and viral load history is an important predictor of current cognitive function across several cognitive domains. If validated, clinical variables and cognitive dysfunction models may improve our understanding of the dynamic relationships between disease evolution and progression and CNS involvement.
HIV; Cognition; Neuropsychology; Executive function; Recent clinical history
The Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA) screen was developed as a brief instrument to identify mild cognitive impairment and dementia among older individuals. To date, limited information is available regarding the neuroimaging signatures associated with performance on the scale, or the relationship between the MoCA and more comprehensive cognitive screening measures. The present study examined performances on the MoCA among 111 non-clinical older adults (ages 51–85) enrolled in a prospective study of cognitive aging. Participants were administered the MoCA, Mini-Mental State Exam (MMSE), and the Repeatable Battery for the Assessment of Neuropsychological Status (RBANS). A subset of participants (N = 69) underwent structural 3 T magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to define the volumes of total frontal gray matter, total hippocampus, T2-weighted subcortical hyperintensities (SH), and total brain volume. The results revealed significant correlations between the total score on the MoCA and total score on the RBANS and MMSE, though the strength of the correlations was more robust between the MoCA and the RBANS. Modest correlations between individual subscales of the MoCA and neuroimaging variables were evident, but no patterns of shared variance emerged between the MoCA total score and neuroimaging indices. In contrast, total brain volume correlated significantly with total score on the RBANS. These results suggest that additional studies are needed to define the significance of MoCA scores relative to brain integrity among an older population.
Mild cognitive impairment; Neuroimaging (structural)
The Boston Naming Test is one of the most widely used neuropsychological instruments; yet, there has been limited use of modern psychometric methods to investigate its properties at the item level. The current study used Item response theory to examine each item's difficulty and discrimination properties, as well as the test's measurement precision across the range of naming ability. Participants included 300 consecutive referrals to the outpatient neuropsychology service at Mayo Clinic in Florida. Results showed that successive items do not necessarily reflect a monotonic increase in psychometric difficulty, some items are inadequate to distinguish individuals at various levels of naming ability, multiple items provide redundant psychometric information, and measurement precision is greatest for persons within a low-average range of ability. These findings may be used to develop short forms, improve reliability in future test versions by replacing psychometrically poor items, and analyze profiles of intra-individual variability.
Boston Naming Test; Item response theory; Item difficulty; Item discriminability
Questions have been raised about whether poor performance on memory tasks by individuals with major depressive disorder (MDD) might be the result of poor or variable effort or disease-related disruption of neural circuits supporting memory functions. The present study examined performance on a measure of task engagement and on an auditory memory task among 45 patients with MDD (M age = 47.82, SD = 19.55) relative to 32 healthy controls (HC; M age = 51.03, SD = 22.09). One-hundred percent of HC and MDD volunteers performed above the threshold for adequate effort on a formal measure of task engagement. The MDD subjects performed significantly more poorly than the HC subjects on an auditory learning and memory test. The present results suggest that auditory memory difficulties do occur among those with MDD and that decrements in performance in this group may be related to factors other than lack of effort.
Depression; Malingering/symptom validity testing; Learning and memory
According to the multi-process theory of prospective memory (ProM), time-based tasks rely more heavily on strategic processes dependent on prefrontal systems than do event-based tasks. Given the prominent frontostriatal pathophysiology of HIV infection, one would expect HIV-infected individuals to demonstrate greater deficits in time-based versus event-based ProM. However, the two prior studies examining this question have produced variable results. We evaluated this hypothesis in 143 individuals with HIV infection and 43 demographically similar seronegative adults (HIV−) who completed the research version of the Memory for Intentions Screening Test, which yields parallel subscales of time- and event-based ProM. Results showed main effects of HIV serostatus and cue type, but no interaction between serostatus and cue. Planned pair-wise comparisons showed a significant effect of HIV on time-based ProM and a trend-level effect on event-based ProM that was driven primarily by the subset of participants with HIV-associated neurocognitive disorders. Nevertheless, time-based ProM was more strongly correlated with measures of executive functions, attention/working memory, and verbal fluency in HIV-infected persons. Although HIV-associated deficits in time- and event-based ProM appear to be of comparable severity, the cognitive architecture of time-based ProM may be more strongly influenced by strategic monitoring and retrieval processes.
AIDS dementia complex; Episodic memory; Executive functions; Neuropsychological assessment
The Driving Scenes test of the new Neuropsychological Assessment Battery (NAB; [Stern, R.A., & White, T. (2003a). Neuropsychological Assessment Battery. Lutz, FL: Psychological Assessment Resources, Inc.]) measures several aspects of visual attention thought to be important for driving ability. The current study examined the relationship between scores on the Driving Scenes test and on-road driving performance on a standardized driving test. Healthy participants performed significantly better on the Driving Scenes test than did very mildly demented participants. A correlation of 0.55 was found between the brief, office-based Driving Scenes test and the 108-point on-road driving score. Furthermore, the Driving Scenes test scores differed significantly across the driving instructor’s three global ratings (safe, marginal, and unsafe), and results of a discriminant function analysis indicated that the Driving Scenes test correctly classified 66% of participants into these groups. Thus, the new NAB Driving Scenes test appears to have good ecological validity for real-world driving ability in normal and very mildly demented older adults.
Driving; Aging; Dementia; Neuropsychology; Attention; Visual
Although delirium is a common medical comorbidity with altered cognition as its defining feature, few publications have addressed the neuropsychological prodrome, profile, and recovery of patients tested during delirium. We characterize neuropsychological performance in 54 hemapoietic stem cell/bone marrow transplantation (BMT) patients shortly before, during, and after delirium and in BMT patients without delirium and 10 healthy adults. Patients were assessed prospectively before and after transplantation using a brief battery. BMT patients with delirium performed more poorly than comparisons and those without delirium on cross-sectional and trend analyses. Deficits were in expected areas of attention and memory, but also in psychomotor speed and learning. The patients with delirium did not return to normative “average” on any test during observation. Most tests showed a mild decline in the visit before delirium, a sharp decline with delirium onset, and variable performance in the following days. This study adds to the few investigations of neuropsychological performance surrounding delirium and provides targets for monitoring and early detection; Trails A and B, RBANS Coding, and List Recall may be useful for delirium assessment.
Bone marrow transplantation; Cognition; Cancer; Attention; Delirium
The estimation of premorbid abilities is an essential part of a neuropsychological evaluation, especially in neurodegenerative conditions. Although word pronunciation tests are one standard method for estimating the premorbid level, research suggests that these tests may not be valid in neurodegenerative diseases. Therefore, the current study sought to examine two estimates of premorbid intellect, the Wide Range Achievement Test (WRAT) Reading subtest and the Barona formula, in 93 patients with mild to moderate Huntington's disease (HD) to determine their utility and to investigate how these measures relate to signs and symptoms of disease progression. In 89% of participants, WRAT estimates were below the Barona estimates. WRAT estimates were related to worsening memory and motor functioning, whereas the Barona estimates had weaker relationships. Neither estimate was related to depression or functional capacity. Irregular word reading tests appear to decline with HD progression, whereas estimation methods based on demographic factors may be more robust but overestimate premorbid functioning.
Huntington's disease; movement disorders; basal ganglia; assessment; dementia
Progression of HIV/AIDS is frequently associated with frontal/subcortical dysfunction and mean reaction time (RT) slowing. Beyond group means, within-subject variability of RT has been found to be particularly sensitive to frontal/subcortical dysfunction in other populations. However, the possible relevance of RT variability to HIV/AIDS patients remains unknown. This study evaluated the relationships between RT variability and indicators such as neurocognitive, behavioral, and immunological status. A total of 46 HIV-positive adults on antiretroviral medication regimens were included in this study. Overall performance of this sample was poorer than normative means on measures of RT latency, RT variability, and traditional neurocognitive domains. Results demonstrated that the measures of RT variability were associated with global cognition, medication adherence rates, and peak immunological dysfunction, above and beyond the effects of RT latency. These preliminary findings suggest that measures of RT variability may provide enhanced sensitivity to neurocognitive disease burden in HIV/AIDS relative to more traditional measures of mean RT or cognitive function.
AIDS; Cognitive ability; Medication adherence; Immunological status; Continuous Performance Test; CPT-II
Recent studies suggest that older human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-infected adults are at particular risk for HIV-associated neurocognitive disorders (HAND), including dementia. Deficits in attention/working memory are posited to play a central role in the development of HAND among older adults. The aim of the present study was to examine the possible protective benefits of spontaneous strategy use during a visual working memory task in 46 older and 42 younger adults infected with HIV. Results revealed a significant interaction between age and strategy use, with older adults who used a meta-cognitive strategy demonstrating superior working memory performance versus non-strategy users. This effect was not observed in the younger HIV-infected sample and was not better explained by possible confounding factors, such as education, comorbid medical conditions, or HIV disease severity. Within the older group, strategy use was associated with better executive functions and higher estimated verbal intelligence. Findings from this study suggest that working memory declines in older HIV-infected adults are moderated by the use of higher-level mnemonic strategies and may inform cognitive neurorehabilitation efforts to improve cognitive and everyday functioning outcomes in older persons living with HIV infection.
Human immunodeficiency virus; Working memory; Aging; Strategies; Neuropsychology