The Paced Auditory Serial Addition Test (PASAT) is widely used to evaluate processing speed and executive function in patients with multiple sclerosis, traumatic brain injury, and other neurological disorders. In the PASAT, subjects listen to sequences of digits while continuously reporting the sum of the last two digits presented. Four different stimulus onset asynchronies (SOAs) are usually tested, with difficulty increasing as SOAs are reduced. Ceiling effects are common at long SOAs, while the digit delivery rate often exceeds the subject’s processing capacity at short SOAs, causing some subjects to stop performing altogether. In addition, subjects may adopt an “alternate answer” strategy at short SOAs, which reduces the test’s demands on working-memory and processing speed. Consequently, studies have shown that the number of dyads (consecutive correct answers) is a more sensitive measure of PASAT performance than the overall number of correct sums. Here, we describe a 2.5-minute computerized test, the Dyad-Adaptive PASAT (DA-PASAT), where SOAs are adjusted with a 2:1 staircase, decreasing after each pair of correct responses and increasing after misses. Processing capacity is reflected in the minimum SOA (minSOA) achieved in 54 trials. Experiment 1 gathered normative data in two large populations: 1617 subjects in New Zealand ranging in age from 18 to 65 years, and 214 Californians ranging in age from 18 to 82 years. Minimum SOAs were influenced by age, education, and daily hours of computer-use. Minimum SOA z-scores, calculated after factoring out the influence of these factors, were virtually identical in the two control groups, as were response times (RTs) and dyad ratios (the proportion of hits occurring in dyads). Experiment 2 measured the test-retest reliability of the DA-PASAT in 44 young subjects who underwent three test sessions at weekly intervals. High intraclass correlation coefficients (ICCs) were found for minSOAs (0.87), response times (0.76), and dyad ratios (0.87). Performance improved across test sessions for all measures. Experiment 3 investigated the effects of simulated malingering in 50 subjects: 42% of simulated malingerers produced abnormal (p< 0.05) minSOA z-scores. Simulated malingerers with abnormal scores were distinguished with 87% sensitivity and 69% specificity from control subjects with abnormal scores by excessive differences between training performance and the actual test. Experiment 4 investigated patients with traumatic brain injury (TBI): patients with mild TBI performed within the normal range while patients with severe TBI showed deficits. The DA-PASAT reduces the time and stress of PASAT assessment while gathering sensitive measures of dyad processing that reveal the effects of aging, malingering, and traumatic brain injury on performance.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)