Towards a novel ecologically-valid assessment of executive functions in children and adolescents: Could virtual reality be the answer?

Ashok Jansari, Rebecca Gordon

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference paperpeer-review

Abstract

Childhood and adolescence is a time of rapid cognitive change. As the prefrontal cortex expands, associated improvements in executive functions are especially marked. Most executive function assessment is laboratory based. JAAM provides a novel ecologically-valid assessment of executive functions in adults using virtual reality to assess impacts of brain injury (Jansari et al., 2004). We aimed to develop and evaluate a children’s version, (JAAM-C) to assess executive function in children and adolescents. Methods: JAAM-C was designed to assess eight cognitive constructs; planning, prioritisation, selection, creative-thinking, adaptive-thinking, action-based prospective memory (PM), event-based PM and time-based PM. Resembling a computer game, participants role play running their own birthday party. Thirty typically-developing children aged 10–12 (5F, 7M), 13–15 (3F, 6M) and 16–18 (5F, 4M) completed JAAM-Cc . Results: Significant positive correlations of age with prioritisation, event and time based PM and total score were found. Further, a one-way MANOVA on performance revealed a significant main effect of age (Wilks’ λ = .151, F (18, 38) = 3.3, p <.005). Therefore,JAAM-C demonstrated a robust ability to accurately identify differences inindividual cognitive constructs and overall executive function as a function of age during adolescence. Discussion and Conclusions: JAAM-C offers an assessment of executive function and its developmental trajectory providing aprofile across a range of cognitive constructs that current assessments cannot.Further, it is the first ecologically valid tool for assessing executive functionsin childhood and adolescence. There is potential to use JAAM-C as an assessment tool for typical and atypical development or executive dysfunction due to traumatic brain injury.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationBrain Impairment
Chapter13
Pages146-158
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2012

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