Moving beyond the pros and cons of automating cognitive testing in pathological aging and dementia: the case for equal opportunity.
Alzheimer's Research and Therapy
© Wesnes; licensee BioMed Central 2014. This article is published under license to BioMed Central Ltd. The licensee has exclusive rights to distribute this article, in any medium, for 12 months following its publication. After this time, the article is available under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly credited. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver (http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/) applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.
The lack of progress over the last decade in developing treatments for Alzheimer's disease has called into question the quality of the cognitive assessments used while also shifting the emphasis from treatment to prophylaxis by studying the disorder at earlier stages, even prior to the development of cognitive symptoms. This has led various groups to seek cognitive tests which are more sensitive than those currently used and which can be meaningfully administered to individuals with mild or even no cognitive impairment. Although computerized tests have long been used in this field, they have made little inroads compared with non-automated tests. This review attempts to put in perspective the relative utilities of automated and non-automated tests of cognitive function in therapeutic trials of pathological aging and the dementias. Also by a review of the automation of cognitive tests over the last 150 years, it is hoped that the notion that such procedures are novel compared with pencil-and-paper testing will be dispelled. Furthermore, data will be presented to illustrate that older individuals and patients with dementia are neither stressed nor disadvantaged when tested with appropriately developed computerized methods. An important aspect of automated testing is that it can assess all aspects of task performance, including the speed of cognitive processes, and data are presented on the advantages this can confer in clinical trials. The ultimate objectives of the review are to encourage decision making in the field to move away from the automated/non-automated dichotomy and to develop criteria pertinent to each trial against which all available procedures are evaluated. If we are to make serious progress in this area, we must use the best tools available, and the evidence suggests that automated testing has earned the right to be judged against the same criteria as non-automated tests.
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