Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society



The ecological validity of tests of executive function


PAUL W.  BURGESS a1c1, NICK  ALDERMAN a2, JON  EVANS a3a4, HAZEL  EMSLIE a3a4 and BARBARA A.  WILSON a3
a1 Psychology Department, University College London
a2 Kemsley Brain Injury Rehabilitation Unit, St. Andrew's Hospital, Northampton, U.K.
a3 Medical Research Council Applied Psychology Unit, Cambridge, U.K.
a4 Oliver Zangwill Centre for Neuropsychological Rehabilitation Trust, Ely, U.K.

Abstract

Ninety-two mixed etiology neurological patients and 216 control participants were assessed on a range of neuropsychological tests, including 10 neuropsychological measures of executive function derived from 6 different tests. People who knew the patients well (relatives or carers) completed a questionnaire about the patient's dysexecutive problems in everyday life, and this paper reports the extent to which the tests predicted the patients' everyday life problems. All of the tests were significantly predictive of at least some of the behavioral and cognitive deficits reported by patients' carers. However, factor analysis of the patients' dysexecutive symptoms suggested a fractionation of the dysexecutive syndrome, with neuropsychological tests loading differentially on 3 underlying cognitive factors (Inhibition, Intentionality, and Executive Memory), supporting the conclusions that different tests measure different cognitive processes, and that there may be limits to the fractionation of the executive system. (JINS, 1998, 4, 547–558.)

(Received April 16 1997)
(Revised December 30 1997)
(Accepted March 13 1998)


Key Words: Executive functions; Test validity; Frontal lobe syndrome; Dysexecutive syndrome.

Correspondence:
c1 Reprint requests to: P.W. Burgess, Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, Psychology Department, University College London, Gower Street, London WC1E 6BT, U.K. E-mail: p.burgess@psychol.ucl.ac.uk