DOI: 10.1002/alz.082141 ISSN: 1552-5260

A 10‐minute Digitally Administered and Scored Neuropsychological Protocol Assessing Executive Control and Episodic Memory

David J Libon, Rodney Swenson, Ali Jannati, David Bates, Sean Tobyne, Alvaro Pascual‐Leone, Joyce Rios Gomes‐Osman
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Neurology (clinical)
  • Developmental Neuroscience
  • Health Policy
  • Epidemiology



Digital assessment technology provides rapid and reliable assessment of neurocognitive abilities associated with Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementia (ADRD) and Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI). Dysexecutive and amnestic impairment typify many ADRD and MCI disorders. Here, we evaluate a 10‐minute digitally administered protocol assessing these neurocognitive constructs.


229 community dwelling participants were assessed (age = 68.32+9.85; education = 15.01+2.58, MMSE = 26.84+2.78; 144 females). Executive abilities were assessed with three trials of 5‐digits backward digit span test (BDST) and the ‘animal’ fluency test. Episodic memory was assessed with a 6‐word Philadelphia (repeatable) Verbal Learning Test (PrVLT) consisting of 2 immediate free recall (IFR) trials, delayed free recall (DFR), and delayed recognition. Traditional pencil and paper testing was not used. Data were obtained with an iPad processed using automatic speech recognition.


A K‐means cluster analysis (k = 3) classified participants with possible dementia (pDem = 31), MCI (n = 96), and cognitively normal (CN, n = 100; Table 1). Groups differed from each other on all three P(r)VLT parameters (p = 0.001). CN participants outperformed other groups on executive measures (p = 0.001). All between‐group analyses yielded large effect sizes (η2 = 0.277–0.642). Logistic regression analysis using P(r)VLT‐DFR, P(r)VLT‐recognition, BDST, and ‘animal’ fluency parameters classify MCI and pDem participants into their respective groups compared to CN participants (p = 0.003). For the pDem group, within‐group t‐tests found rapid forgetting (PrVLT‐DFT<PrVLT‐IFR trial 2, p = 0.013; PrVLT‐recognition<PrVLT‐DFR (p = 0.013). Additional, within‐group pDem group comparisons found no differences between P(r)VLT‐recognition and either executive tests. Within group comparisons for the MCI group found P(r)VLT delayed recognition improved compared to P(r)VLT delayed free recall (p<0.001), and worse performance on both executive measures compared to P(r)VLT‐ recognition (p = .001). All of these comparisons are consistent with a mild dysexecutive syndrome.


The protocol described above is efficient, reliable, removes any inter‐rater reliability issues, and is able to operationally‐define dysexecutive and amnestic cognitive impairment ‐ key neurocognitive constructs related to ADRD and MCI. This 10‐minute digitally administered and automatically scored neuropsychological protocol assessing executive abilities and episodic memory could easily be deployed in clinical trials and in primary‐ and specialty‐care settings to screen for emergent cases of MCI and ADRD by efficient assessment of episodic memory and executive abilities.

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