Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society



SYMPOSIUM

The case for the development and use of “ecologically valid” measures of executive function in experimental and clinical neuropsychology


PAUL W.  BURGESS  a1 a2 c1 , NICK  ALDERMAN  a3 , CATRIN  FORBES  a1 a2 , ANGELA  COSTELLO  a5 , LAURE  M-A.COATES  a6 , DEIRDRE R.  DAWSON  a4 a7 , NICOLE D.  ANDERSON  a4 a8 , SAM J.  GILBERT  a1 a2 , IROISE  DUMONTHEIL  a1 a2 and SHELLEY  CHANNON  a2
a1 Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, University College London, London, UK
a2 Psychology Department, University College London, London, UK
a3 Kemsley National Brain Injury Rehabilitation Centre, St. Andrew's Hospital, Northampton, UK
a4 Kunin-Lunenfeld Applied Research Unit, Baycrest Centre for Geriatric Care, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
a5 Neuroscience Unit, King's College Healthcare Trust, London, UK
a6 Institute of Psychiatry, University of London, London, UK
a7 Dept. of Occupational Therapy and Occupational Science; Graduate Dept. of Rehabilitation Sciences, University of Toronto, Canada
a8 Department of Psychology, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Article author query
burgess pw   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
alderman n   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
forbes c   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
costello a   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
m-a.coates l   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
dawson dr   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
anderson nd   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
gilbert sj   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
dumontheil i   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
channon s   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 

Abstract

This article considers the scientific process whereby new and better clinical tests of executive function might be developed, and what form they might take. We argue that many of the traditional tests of executive function most commonly in use (e.g., the Wisconsin Card Sorting Test; Stroop) are adaptations of procedures that emerged almost coincidentally from conceptual and experimental frameworks far removed from those currently in favour, and that the prolongation of their use has been encouraged by a sustained period of concentration on “construct-driven” experimentation in neuropsychology. This resulted from the special theoretical demands made by the field of executive function, but was not a necessary consequence, and may not even have been a useful one. Whilst useful, these tests may not therefore be optimal for their purpose. We consider as an alternative approach a function-led development programme which in principle could yield tasks better suited to the concerns of the clinician because of the transparency afforded by increased “representativeness” and “generalisability.” We further argue that the requirement of such a programme to represent the interaction between the individual and situational context might also provide useful constraints for purely experimental investigations. We provide an example of such a programme with reference to the Multiple Errands and Six Element tests. (JINS, 2006, 12, 194–209.)

(Received May 9 2005)
(Revised August 18 2005)
(Accepted September 19 2005)


Key Words: Frontal lobes; Multiple Errands Test; Six Element Test; Wisconsin Card Sorting Test; Stroop; Assessment.

Correspondence:
c1 Reprint request to: Dr. Paul W. Burgess, Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, University College London, 17 Queen Square, London, WC1E 6BT, UK. E-mail: p.burgess@psychol.ucl.ac.uk