Practitioner Review: Computerized assessment of neuropsychological function in children: clinical and research applications of the Cambridge Neuropsychological Testing Automated Battery (CANTAB)

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Abstract

Background: Computers have been used for a number of years in neuropsychological assessment to facilitate the scoring, interpretation, and administration of a variety of commonly used tests. There has been recent interest in applying computerized technology to pediatric neuropsychological assessment, which poses unique demands based on the need to interpret performance relative to the child's developmental level.

Findings: However, pediatric neuropsychologists have tended to implement computers in the scoring, but not administration, of tests. This trend is changing based on the work of experimental neuropsychologists who frequently combine data obtained from test batteries with lesion or neuroimaging data allowing descriptions of brain–behavior relations to be made with increasing confidence. One such battery is the Cambridge Neuropsychological Testing Automated Battery (CANTAB), and current studies in which the CANTAB has been used to measure executive functions in children are reviewed.

Conclusions: Computerized batteries of this type can record aspects of performance that are difficult for psychometrists to achieve, and these may reflect activity in developing neural networks with more sensitivity than can be achieved with traditional tests. However, before computerized test administration becomes a routine part of pediatric neuropsychological assessment, several obstacles must be overcome. Despite these limitations, it is concluded that computerized assessment can improve the field by facilitating the collection of normative and clinical data.

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