Cognitive assessments: the importance of cognitive baseline tests

acMany stud­ies have shown that when the right group of peo­ple uses the right tool, sig­nif­i­cant ben­e­fits can occur. The ques­tion then becomes, “What assess­ments may help pin­point who may ben­e­fit from what type of train­ing, and set up objec­tive, inde­pen­dent base­lines for cog­ni­tive per­for­mance over time?”

Users of brain fit­ness prod­ucts will need assess­ments to iden­ti­fy cog­ni­tive bot­tle­necks, that is, the cog­ni­tive skills that con­strain the oth­ers and that, if improved, can have a pos­i­tive impact on oth­er func­tions. The devel­op­ment of inex­pen­sive and wide­ly avail­able, yet valid and reli­able, cog­ni­tive assess­ments will then be crit­i­cal to the main­stream growth of the brain fit­ness field.

Most assess­ments today that require the par­tic­i­pa­tion of trained pro­fes­sion­als are expen­sive and present lim­it­ed scal­a­bil­i­ty. A major issue in the use and refine­ment of cog­ni­tive train­ing tools for the appro­pri­ate groups today and in the future is the time and eco­nom­ic invest­ment involved in most­ly face-to-face neu­ropsy­cho­log­i­cal assessments.

To address this issue, a num­ber of ful­ly-auto­mat­ed com­put­er-based cog­ni­tive assess­ments are being used more fre­quent­ly in large-scale clin­i­cal tri­als, help­ing phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pa­nies iden­ti­fy and eval­u­ate poten­tial cog­ni­tive effects of drugs. The pri­ma­ry goal behind the design of these neu­rocog­ni­tive bat­ter­ies is not to diag­nose indi­vid­ual patients, but to mea­sure cog­ni­tion with enough reli­a­bil­i­ty and valid­i­ty to show objec­tive base­lines and any changes rel­a­tive to this base­line in large sub­ject samples.

This may well open the way for such assess­ments to be made avail­able for a wider array of con­sumer uses. Poten­tial­ly, these assess­ments could be repur­posed to help estab­lish a cog­ni­tive base­line, assess men­tal func­tion­ing before and after clin­i­cal con­di­tions, track the con­se­quences of aging, iden­ti­fy pri­or­i­ties for cog­ni­tive train­ing, and mea­sure progress inde­pen­dent from the train­ing itself in indi­vid­ual patients and healthy individuals.

Keep learn­ing by read­ing more arti­cles in the Resources sec­tion, and also please con­sid­er join­ing our free month­ly Brain Fit­ness eNewsletter

This new online resource is based on the con­tent from the book The Sharp­Brains Guide to Brain Fit­ness (May 2009, $19.95), by Alvaro Fer­nan­dez and Dr. Elkhonon Goldberg.

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