It refers to the brain activity involved in comprehension and when gaining knowledge. Such mental processes include remembering, thinking, judging, knowing and problem-solving. The higher-level mental processes include perception, imagining, planning, language and execution of complex behaviors. It is essential to include cognition in any neurological research or study of well-being and health. Cognition is thus included in experimental and other large-scale epidemiologic studies, even when it is not the primary target of the study.
Tests in this battery are recommended for subjects of more than 7 years old and seek to assess the attention, executive function, processing speed, episodic memory, language and the working memory of the subjects. When this test is administered, in addition to the individual measure score, the following are the summary scores:
- Crystallized Cognition Composite Score (comprises of Reading Recognition measure and Picture Vocabulary).
- Fluid Cognition Composite Score (includes Flanker, DCCS, List Sorting, Picture Sequence Memory and Pattern Comparison measures).
- Cognitive Function Composite Score.
For children of the ages between 3 and 6, there is an NIH Toolbox battery available that can be used for cognition. This battery includes measures such as Picture Vocabulary, Flanker, DCCS and Picture Sequence Memory. An Early Childhood Composite Score is attained on administering this battery, that is of course in addition to any individual measure scores.
Working memory refers to the ability to hold information in a short-term buffer, process it and manipulate it across a series of modalities and tasks. The NIH Toolbox’s List Sorting Working Memory Test can be administered to subjects from age 7 to 85. Working memory describes an individual’s ability to hold information until their capacity to store such information is exceeded.
It refers to the ability of an individual to allocate one’s capacities to manage or handle the environmental stimulation. There are different types of attention including selective, sustained and divided. Attention is the foundation of all the other forms of mental processes.
The NIH Toolbox’s Flanker Inhibitory Control and Attention Test can be administered to subjects of ages 3-85. Sustained attention is associated with the state of being alert or the level of wakefulness while selective attention is associated with the direct thought and sensory processes linked to a particular stimulus which may evoke a certain action. Divided attention on its part deals with the ability to manage more than one modality or stimulus simultaneously and may overlap with executive function.
It refers to the cognitive processes involved in storage, acquisition, and retrieval of new information. Episodic memory is associated with the recollection of information that has been learnt in a given context. The NIH Toolbox’s Picture Sequence Memory Test can be administered to subjects from ages 3 to 85. It can be a verbal or nonverbal test. Verbal in terms of remembering a conversation or items on a list or nonverbal in terms of imagining a picture that one saw or a place visited a week ago.
It refers to the ability to organize, monitor and plan the execution of behaviors that are directed at achieving a desired objective or goal. There are two tests that can be administered under executive function, both applicable to subjects from the age of 3 to 85; The NIH Toolbox Dimensional Change Card Sort Test and the NIH Toolbox Flanker Inhibitory Control and Attention Test. The Executive Function test measures the ability to switch or shift among multiple aspects of a given task.
The NIH Toolbox tests two aspects of language: reading and deciphering the receptive word. Language refers to the ability to translate thought into gestures or words which can then be shared during communication. Two tests can be administered under language; the first applies to subjects from ages 3 to 85 (The NIH Toolbox Picture Vocabulary Test) while the other is suited for those between the ages of 7 to 85 (The NIH Toolbox Oral Reading Recognition Test). Verbal intelligence can be easily accessed through oral reading; such intelligence is relatively undisturbed by the conditions that alter normal brain activity.
Processing speed reflects mental efficiency. It refers to the amount of information that a person can process in a given duration or the time an individual takes to process a given set of information. It is crucial for many domains and cognitive functions, sensitivity to change or disease. The NIH Toolbox’s Pattern Comparison Processing Speed Test can be administered to subjects between ages 7 to 85.