Lessons learned--15 years of the WHO-NCTB: a review

Neurotoxicology. 2000 Oct;21(5):837-46.


Based on expert recommendations, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended the Neurobehavioral Core Test Battery (NCTB) in 1983 to detect neurotoxicity in world-wide populations. The NCTB consists of 7 neurobehavioral tests (Digit Symbol, Digit Span, Benton visual memory test/recognition form, Santa Ana dexterity test, Simple Reaction Time, Pursuit Aiming II, and Profile of Mood States). Research with the NCTB provides the context for the results of a mini-symposium held in 1999 to discuss the lessons learned about using the NCTB in working populations. Speakers from Africa, Asia, Europe, and North America reviewed data from 94 studies using the NCTB, including 63 from China, 13 from Korea, 11 from Poland, three from South Africa, three from the USA, and one from Ecuador. Although a consensus was not sought in the symposium, the key lessons learned that emerged from the various presentations, were: * The NCTB is effective in testing adults with 12 or more years of formal education, but can not reliably test persons with less than 9 years of education. * People from cultures very different from those in Europe and North America (eg, aboriginal and African cultures) may not be tested effectively by the NCTB, although others such as at least some Asian populations, can be. To address this problem, the construct validity of the NCTB should be established in a wide range of countries. * The POMS measures of emotion proved to be very sensitive to neurotoxic exposures in several countries, but the POMS was the NCTB test most affected by cultural differences. The Digit Symbol or the Milan modification of that test was also highly sensitive to neurotoxic exposures. * Examiner drift following training to administer the NCTB is a significant problem in technically trained Examiners. Pursuit Aiming II is very difficult to score reliably.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Affect
  • Cross-Cultural Comparison
  • Emotions
  • Humans
  • Memory
  • Neuropsychological Tests / standards*
  • Neurotoxicity Syndromes / diagnosis*
  • Neurotoxicity Syndromes / physiopathology
  • Neurotoxicity Syndromes / psychology
  • Psychomotor Performance
  • Reaction Time
  • World Health Organization*