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Arch Clin Neuropsychol. 2005 Jun;20(4):517-29.

Practice effects and the use of alternate forms in serial neuropsychological testing.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, University of Iowa College of Medicine, 1-321 MEB, 200 Hawkins Dr., Iowa City, Iowa 52242, USA.


Accurate understanding of practice characteristics, performance stability, and error on neuropsychological tests is essential to both valid clinical assessment and maximization of signal detection for clinical trials of cognitive enhancing drugs. We examined practice effects in 28 healthy adults. As part of a larger study using donepezil and simulating a Phase I trial, participants were randomized into: placebo, no-treatment and donepezil. Donepezil results are presented elsewhere. Neuropsychological tests were administered in a fixed order for 6 weeks, with alternate forms available for most tests. Despite alternate forms, ANOVAs revealed significant improvements for the pooled control group (placebo and no-treatment) on all tests except Letter Number Sequencing and Trails B. Learning occurred principally in the first three to four sessions. PASAT and Stroop interference showed the greatest learning. Thus, serial assessment with alternate forms may attenuate retest effects on some tests, but continued learning occurs on novel tests or those in which an advantageous test-taking strategy can be identified. Alternate forms and baseline practice sessions may help control early, rapid improvements in clinical trials.

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