- Digital technology in cognitive testing would be an
improvement over the traditional paper-based tests
- Digital tests will help capture information more
- New research recommends use of modern technology for
tests are used worldwide to assess the thinking abilities of
people that include memory, perception, reasoning and problem-solving
skills. The test-takers' potential to use their mental process to acquire
knowledge or solve problems could be measured using these tests. Traditionally
cognitive tests are paper-based, standardized tests administered to a large
group of people.
research led by Dr Laura Germine of McLean Hospital and her colleagues,
suggests that cognitive tests conducted using smartphones or laptops, as
opposed to the traditional paper-based tests, would be a great
improvement. The team has also presented a critical overview of modern testing
technology that would help neuropsychologists comprehend and benefit from new
Why Digital Testing?
Germine, the technical director of the McLean Institute for Technology in
Psychiatry and director of the Laboratory for Brain and Cognitive Health
Technology said that "Digital technology
could improve cognitive testing and might change the way we understand and
measure brain functioning in health and disease.
‘Using digital technology to conduct cognitive tests would prove to be more effective than the traditional testing methods.’
that using digital devices like smartphones for assessing neuropsychological
functions or what could be referred to as 'digital neuropsychology' signifies "A critical and potentially game-changing set of methodologies
that can get at aspects of cognitive functioning that were previously
inaccessible. We can, for example, measure the way cognition might change or
fluctuate over time, or be affected by different sorts of environments,
" she added.
Dr. Germine said that when conducted on digital platforms, these tests would have the
potential to record even the subtlest and important information about test
takers, the sort of information that would otherwise be impossible to capture
in the paper tests. She was quoted saying "You
can measure moment-to-moment changes as a person moves their finger across the
touch screen. If that movement is not smooth, if there's jerkiness, we can get
all that. We can record certain dynamics or 'micro behaviors' with digital
assessment. It's amazing."
and her team also elaborate on how the
digital tools allow for testing people's neuropsychological functions in their
which is a very significant feature of the method. "Much of neuropsychological testing is
getting at someone's optimal performance, determining how well could they do if
you structured everything right."
Digital testing, on the contrary, "Lets you ask the question of how well they
actually do in their everyday environments"
says Dr Germine.
About the Research
which presents all these findings, published in The Clinical Neuropsychologist
, is a result of 10 years of work
that Dr Germine and team undertook to introduce digital tools in the field of
cognitive testing. Their research has been funded by National Institutes of
Health and other sources.
The team has
also been associated with many projects that involved the use of digital tools
for measuring neuropsychological functioning. They have worked to create one of
the first online neuropsychological research laboratories in 2005.
, a testing
website launched in 2008, Dr Germine mentioned that "Is now
being used across more than 150 research and education sites internationally,
and more than 2 million people have completed tests on the site."
Word of Caution
and team advise clinicians and researchers to be cautious as they move forward
with using digital neuropsychology, despite the success of their work. "Variations in devices, hardware, and
software and how we interact with them could be in some ways greater than with
paper and pencil, and taking a test on a laptop as opposed to a smartphone
could yield different results,"
she pointed out.
considering using these methods should, "Maintain the right degree of skepticism and
understand the scope of what is possible,"
advises the research
team. Dr Germine adds that "The paper was
meant to be a primer for clinical researchers and neuropsychologists and
introduce them to these new opportunities in digital neuropsychology."
team, she mentioned, "Also hope to help software and technology
developers build the right tools that solve the right problems for
The Way Forward
Germine and her team are involved in a large-scale project that aims at
developing a nationwide infrastructure to perform neuropsychological testing
using mobile devices. This is being done in association with the National
Institute of Aging. About this project, Dr Germine said that "We're bringing together the brightest minds
and innovators to create a standard set of tools for mobile devices that will
help move the needle in our understanding of brain health and how
neuropsychological functioning contributes to physical and mental disorders."
- New Research Looks at the Promise of 'Digital Neuropsychology' - (https://www.mcleanhospital.org/news/new-research-looks-promise-digital-neuropsychology)