On the importance of cognitive profiling: A graphical modelling analysis of domain-specific and domain-general deficits after stroke.
Massa MS., Wang N., Bickerton WL., Demeyere N., Riddoch MJ., Humphreys GW.
Cognitive problems following stroke are typically analysed using either short but relatively uninformative general tests or through detailed but time consuming tests of domain specific deficits (e.g., in language, memory, praxis). Here we present an analysis of neuropsychological deficits detected using a screen designed to fall between other screens by being 'broad' (testing multiple cognitive abilities) but 'shallow' (sampling the abilities briefly, to be time efficient) - the BCoS. Assessment using the Birmingham Cognitive Screen (BCoS) enables the relations between 'domain specific' and 'domain general' cognitive deficits to be evaluated as the test generates an overall cognitive profile for individual patients. We analysed data from 287 patients tested at a sub-acute stage of stroke (<3 months). Graphical modelling techniques were used to investigate the associative structure and conditional independence between deficits within and across the domains sampled by BCoS (attention and executive functions, language, memory, praxis and number processing). The patterns of deficit within each domain conformed to existing cognitive models. However, these within-domain patterns underwent substantial change when the whole dataset was modelled, indicating that domain-specific deficits can only be understood in relation to linked changes in domain-general processes. The data point to the importance of using over-arching cognitive screens, measuring domain-general as well as domain-specific processes, in order to account for neuropsychological deficits after stroke. The paper also highlights the utility of using graphical modelling to understand the relations between cognitive components in complex datasets.