PSYCHOMETRIC CHARACTERISTICS AND PRACTICE EFFECTS OF THE BRUNSWICK TRAIL MAKING TEST1,2

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Abstract

Three trail-making tasks were designed to yield measures of visuomotor speed, efficiency of visual search, and cognitive flexibility (attentional switching). Scores on paper-and-pencil trail-making performance tasks were analyzed in 54 neurologically nonimpaired participants (21 men, 33 women; M=40 yr., SD=15 yr.). In Study 1, a 5-item 3-task format of the new trail-making test was developed by selecting items based on psychometric characteristics. The tasks were visuomotor trail-making (one item), visual search (two items), and cognitive flexibility (two items). Estimates of internal consistency of the resulting test scores of the Brunswick Trail Making Test yielded acceptable values (.91 and .90). In Study 2, the effects of repeated practice on trail-making tasks were analyzed. Task repetition affected the performance in the three trail-making tasks differentially. On the visuomotor task, effects of repeated task practice were completely carried over to similar trails. Evidence for transfer of learning was obtained neither for the visual search task nor for the cognitive flexibility task. It is concluded that training effects of perceptual-motor and cognitive skills are highly specific. Implications of these findings for cognitive neurorehabilitation are discussed.

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