Digital assessment of working memory and processing speed in everyday life: Feasibility, validation, and lessons-learned

N.E.M. Daniëls, S.L. Bartels, S.J.W. Verhagen, R.J.M. Van Knippenberg, M.E. De Vugt, Ph.A.E.G Delespaul

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

Objectives
Cognitive functioning is often impaired in mental and neurological conditions and might fluctuate throughout the day. An existing experience-sampling tool was upgraded to assess individual's cognition in everyday life. The objectives were to test the feasibility and validity of two momentary cognition tasks.

Methods
The momentary Visuospatial Working Memory Task (mVSWMT) and momentary Digit Symbol Substitution Task (mDSST) were add-ons to an experience sampling method (ESM) smartphone app. Healthy adults (n = 49) between 19 and 73 years of age performed the tasks within an ESM questionnaire 8 times a day, over 6 consecutive days. Feasibility was determined through completion rate and participant experience. Validity was assessed through contextualization of cognitive performance within intrapersonal and situational factors in everyday life.

Findings
Participants experienced the tasks as pleasant, felt motivated, and the completion rate was high (71%). Social context, age, and distraction influenced cognitive performance in everyday life. The mVSWMT was too difficult as only 37% of recalls were correct and thus requires adjustments (i.e. fixed time between encoding and recall; more trials per moment). The mDSST speed outcome seems the most sensitive outcome measure to capture between- and within-person variance.

Conclusions
Short momentary cognition tasks for repeated assessment are feasible and hold promise, but more research is needed to improve validity and applicability in different samples. Recommendations for teams engaging in the field include matching task design with traditional neuropsychological tests and involving a multidisciplinary team as well as users. Special attention for individual needs can improve motivation and prevent frustration. Finally, tests should be attractive and competitive to stimulate engagement, but still reflect actual cognitive functioning.
Original languageEnglish
Article number100300
Number of pages13
JournalInternet Interventions
Volume19
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2020

Keywords

  • Cognition
  • Experience sampling
  • Ecological momentary assessment
  • Working memory
  • Processing speed
  • ECOLOGICAL MOMENTARY ASSESSMENT
  • EXPERIENCE SAMPLING METHOD
  • COGNITIVE PERFORMANCE
  • HEALTH-CARE
  • REAL-WORLD
  • ASSOCIATIONS
  • VALIDITY
  • TIME
  • IMPAIRMENTS
  • RELIABILITY
  • CHILDRENS

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