A computerized test of design fluency

David L Woods, John M. Wyma, Timothy J. Herron, E. William Yund

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Tests of design fluency (DF) assess a participant's ability to generate geometric patterns and are thought to measure executive functions involving the non-dominant frontal lobe. Here, we describe the properties of a rapidly administered computerized design-fluency (C-DF) test that measures response times, and is automatically scored. In Experiment 1, we found that the number of unique patterns produced over 90 s by 180 control participants (ages 18 to 82 years) correlated with age, education, and daily computer-use. Each line in the continuous 4-line patterns required approximately 1.0 s to draw. The rate of pattern production and the incidence of repeated patterns both increased over the 90 s test. Unique pattern z-scores (corrected for age and computer-use) correlated with the results of other neuropsychological tests performed on the same day. Experiment 2 analyzed C-DF testretest reliability in 55 participants in three test sessions at weekly intervals and found high z-score intraclass correlation coefficients (ICC = 0.79). Z-scores in the first session did not differ significantly from those of Experiment 1, but performance improved significantly over repeated tests. Experiment 3 investigated the performance of Experiment 2 participants when instructed to simulate malingering. Z-scores were significantly reduced and pattern repetitions increased, but there was considerable overlap with the performance of the control population. Experiment 4 examined performance in veteran patients tested more than one year after traumatic brain injury (TBI). Patients with mild TBI performed within the normal range, but patients with severe TBI showed reduced z-scores. The C-DF test reliably measures visuospatial pattern generation ability and reveals performance deficits in patients with severe TBI.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0153952
JournalPLoS One
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Medicine(all)


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