Procedural Variations in the Stroop and the Symbol Digit Modalities Test: Impact on Patients with Multiple Sclerosis

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Abstract

Decreased information processing speed is often cited as the primary cognitive deficit occurring in conjunction with multiple sclerosis (MS). Two common tools for assessing this deficit are the Stroop Test and the Symbol Digit Modalities Test (SDMT). However, there are procedural variations in these rapid serial processing (RSP) tests pertaining to the response format (e.g., verbal or manual) and the administration format (e.g., paper-based or computerized). The present study was designed to assess whether such variations impact MS patients' and healthy individuals' performance on these tests. In Experiment 1, we showed that response formats in which either the experimenter or the participant was responsible for advancing the items on computerized versions of the Stroop Test and the SDMT were basically equivalent in terms of distinguishing between patients and controls. In Experiment 2, we found differences between administration formats that appear to interact with some of the disease-related features of MS. Understanding how procedural variations differentially impact patients and controls can be useful for interpreting what RSP tests reveal about the cognitive impact of MS.

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