The effects of practice on the cognitive test performance of neurologically normal individuals assessed at brief test-retest intervals

J Int Neuropsychol Soc. 2003 Mar;9(3):419-28. doi: 10.1017/S1355617703930074.


Performance on many cognitive and neuropsychological tests may be improved by prior exposure to testing stimuli and procedures. These beneficial practice effects can have a significant impact on test performance when conventional neuropsychological tests are administered at test-retest intervals of weeks, months or years. Many recent investigations have sought to determine changes in cognitive function over periods of minutes or hours (e.g., before and after anesthesia) using computerized tests. However, the effects of practice at such brief test-retest intervals has not been reported. The current study sought to determine the magnitude of practice effects in a group of 113 individuals assessed with an automated cognitive test battery on 4 occasions in 1 day. Practice effects were evident both between and within assessments, and also within individual tests. However, these effects occurred mostly between the 1st and 2nd administration of the test battery, with smaller, nonsignificant improvements observed between the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th administrations. On the basis of these results, methodological and statistical strategies that may aid in the differentiation of practice effects from drug-induced cognitive changes are proposed.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Association Learning / physiology
  • Choice Behavior / physiology
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory, Short-Term / physiology
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuropsychological Tests*
  • Practice, Psychological*
  • Problem-Based Learning
  • Psychometrics
  • Reaction Time
  • Recognition, Psychology
  • Regression Analysis
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Time Factors