Preliminary data from the Dyad-Adaptive PASAT
The Paced Auditory Serial Addition Test (PASAT) is a neuropsychological assessment that is widely used to evaluate processing speed and executive function in patients with multiple sclerosis, traumatic brain injury, and other neuropsychiatric disorders. In the PASAT, subjects listen to sequences of digits while continuously reporting the sum of the last two digits presented. Four different stimulus onset asynchronies (SOAs) are usually tested, with difficulty increasing as SOAs are reduced. Ceiling effects are common at long SOAs. In contrast, the digit delivery rate often exceeds the subject’s processing capacity at short SOAs, resulting in frustration and stress and causing some subjects to stop performing altogether. In addition, subjects may adopt an “alternate answer” strategy at short SOAs, which reduces the test’s demands on working-memory and processing speed. Consequently, studies have shown that the number of dyads (consecutive correct answers) is a more sensitive measure of PASAT performance than the overall number of correct sums. Here, we describe a 2.5-minute computerized test, the Dyad-Adaptive PASAT (DA-PASAT), where stimulus onset asynchronies (SOAs) are adjusted based on dyad accuracy and processing capacity is reflected in the minimum SOA (minSOA) achieved in 54 trials. Experiment 1 gathered normative data in two large populations: 1617 subjects in New Zealand ranging in age from 18 to 65 years, and 214 Californians ranging in age from 18 to 82 years. Minimum SOAs were influenced by age, education, and daily hours of computer-use. Minimum SOA z-scores, calculated after factoring out the influence of these factors, were virtually identical in the two control groups, as were response times (RTs). The dyad ratio (the proportion of hits occurring in dyads) averaged 0.93 in both experiments. Experiment 2 measured the test-retest reliability of the DA-PASAT in 44 young subjects who underwent three test sessions at weekly intervals. High intraclass correlation coefficients (ICCs) were found for minSOAs (0.87), response times (0.76), and dyad ratios (0.87). Performance improved across test sessions for all measures. Experiment 3 investigated the effects of simulated malingering in 50 subjects: 42% of simulated malingerers produced abnormal (p< 0.05) minSOA z-scores. Simulated malingerers with abnormal scores were distinguished with 87% sensitivity and 69% specificity from control subjects with abnormal scores by differences between performance during training and during the actual test. Experiment 4 investigated patients with traumatic brain injury (TBI): patients with mild TBI performed within the normal range while patients with severe TBI showed deficits. The DA-PASAT reduces the time and stress of PASAT assessment while gathering sensitive measures of dyad processing that reveal the effects of aging, malingering, and traumatic brain injury on performance.