Measuring executive function in control subjects and TBI patients with question completion time (QCT)

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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Questionnaire completion is a complex task that places demands on cognitive functions subserving reading, introspective memory, decision-making, and motor control. Although computerized questionnaires and surveys are used with increasing frequency in clinical practice, few studies have examined question completion time (QCT), the time required to complete each question. Here, we analyzed QCTs in 172 control subjects and 31 patients with traumatic brain injury (TBI) who completed two computerized questionnaires, the 17-question Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Checklist (PCL) and the 25-question Cognitive Failures Questionnaire (CFQ). In control subjects, robust correlations were found between self-paced QCTs on the PCL and CFQ (r = 0.82). QCTs on individual questions correlated strongly with the number of words in the question, indicating the critical role of reading speed. QCTs increased significantly with age, and were reduced in females and in subjects with increased education and computer experience. QCT z-scores, corrected for age, education, computer use, and sex, correlated more strongly with each other than with the results of other cognitive tests. Patients with a history of severe TBI showed significantly delayed QCTs, but QCTs fell within the normal range in patients with a history of mild TBI. When questionnaires are used to gather relevant patient information, simultaneous QCT measures provide reliable and clinically sensitive measures of processing speed and executive function.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number288
JournalFrontiers in Human Neuroscience
Issue numberMAY
StatePublished - May 19 2015


  • Aging
  • Executive function
  • Gender
  • Head injury
  • Reaction time
  • Reading

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Neurology
  • Biological Psychiatry
  • Behavioral Neuroscience
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology


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