The n-back test and the attentional network task as measures of child neuropsychological development in epidemiological studies

Neuropsychology. 2014 Jul;28(4):519-29. doi: 10.1037/neu0000085. Epub 2014 May 12.


Computerized neuropsychological tests offered several advantages for large epidemiological studies to assess child neuropsychological development. We aimed to evaluate the psychometric properties and criterion validity of 2 computerized tests (n-back and attentional network task [ANT]) used to assess the working memory and attention function, respectively. As part of the BREATHE (BRain dEvelopment and Air polluTion ultrafine particles in scHool childrEn) project, we evaluated the neuropsychological development of 2,904 children between 7 to 9 years of age. The main outcomes of the n-back test were d' scores and hit reaction time (RT) (HRT). The outcomes measured for ANT were incorrect responses, omissions, alerting, orienting, and conflict. We also collected data of child's sex, age, school achievement, ADHD symptomatology, behavioral problems, and maternal education. We observed that the d' scores and HRT showed acceptable internal consistency, reasonable factorial structure, as well as good criterion validity and statistical dependencies. Regarding the ANT, incorrect responses, omissions, and conflict score had acceptable criterion validity although the internal consistency of the ANT was low. We strongly recommend the use of these tests in environmental epidemiological studies as valid, objective, and easy-to-apply measures of child neuropsychological development.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollution / statistics & numerical data
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / diagnosis*
  • Child
  • Developmental Disabilities* / diagnosis
  • Developmental Disabilities* / epidemiology
  • Developmental Disabilities* / physiopathology
  • Executive Function
  • Factor Analysis, Statistical
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Memory, Short-Term / physiology*
  • Neuropsychological Tests*
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires