FarmApp: a new assessment of cognitive control and memory for children and young people with neurodevelopmental difficulties.
Brkić D., Ng-Cordell E., O'Brien S., Martin J., Scerif G., Astle D., Baker K.
We introduce a new touchscreen-based method measuring aspects of cognitive control and memory, in children and young people with neurodevelopmental difficulties, including intellectual disability (ID). FarmApp is a gamified, tablet-based assessment tool measuring go/no-go response speed, response inhibition, visuospatial short-term memory span, and long-term memory. Here, we assessed the feasibility, validity, and utility of the method, including the benefits of measuring change in performance over two weeks. We observed that: 1) a higher proportion of participants completed FarmApp than traditional psychometric tests; 2) this proportion increased when participants had opportunity for two weeks of self-paced testing at home; 3) ADHD-relevant behavioral difficulties were associated with average go/no-go performance across all attempts, and change in go/no-go performance over time, indicating sensitivity of the method to cognitive differences with real-world relevance. We also addressed the potential utility of the FarmApp for exploring links between ID etiology and cognitive processes. We observed differences in go/no-go task between two groups of ID participants stratified by the physiological functions of associated genetic variants (chromatin-related and synaptic-related). Moreover, the synaptic group demonstrated higher degree of improvement in go/no-go performance over time. This outcome is potentially informative of dynamic mechanisms contributing to cognitive difficulties within this group. In sum, FarmApp is a feasible, valid, and useful tool increasing access to cognitive assessment for individuals with neurodevelopmental difficulties of variable severity, with an added opportunity to monitor variation in performance over time and determine capacity to acquire task competence.