The Internet-Based Cognitive Assessment Tool: System Design and Feasibility Study

JMIR Form Res. 2019 Jul 26;3(3):e13898. doi: 10.2196/13898.


Background: Persistent cognitive impairment is prevalent in unipolar and bipolar disorders and is associated with decreased quality of life and psychosocial dysfunction. The screen for cognitive impairment in psychiatry (SCIP) test is a validated paper-and-pencil instrument for the assessment of cognition in affective disorders. However, there is no digital cognitive screening tool for the brief and accurate assessment of cognitive impairments in this patient group.

Objective: In this paper, we present the design process and feasibility study of the internet-based cognitive assessment tool (ICAT) that is designed based on the cognitive tasks of the SCIP. The aims of this feasibility study were to perform the following tasks among healthy individuals: (1) evaluate the usability of the ICAT, (2) investigate the feasibility of the ICAT as a patient-administered cognitive assessment tool, and (3) examine the performance of automatic speech recognition (ASR) for the assessment of verbal recall.

Methods: The ICAT was developed in a user-centered design process. The cognitive measures of the ICAT were immediate and delayed recall, working memory, and psychomotor speed. Usability and feasibility studies were conducted separately with 2 groups of healthy individuals (N=21 and N=19, respectively). ICAT tests were available in the English and Danish languages. The participants were asked to fill in the post study system usability questionnaire (PSSUQ) upon completing the ICAT test. Verbal recall in the ICAT was assessed using ASR, and the performance evaluation criterion was word error rate (WER). A Pearson 2-tailed correlation analysis significant at the .05 level was applied to investigate the association between the SCIP and ICAT scores.

Results: The overall psychometric factors of PSSUQ for both studies gave scores above 4 (out of 5). The analysis of the feasibility study revealed a moderate to strong correlation between the total scores of the SCIP and ICAT (r=0.63; P=.009). There were also moderate to strong correlations between the SCIP and ICAT subtests for immediate verbal recall (r=0.67; P=.002) and psychomotor speed (r=0.71; P=.001). The associations between the respective subtests for working memory, executive function, and delayed recall, however, were not statistically significant. The corresponding WER for English and Danish responses were 17.8% and 6.3%, respectively.

Conclusions: The ICAT is the first digital screening instrument modified from the SCIP using Web-based technology and ASR. There was good accuracy of the ASR for verbal memory assessment. The moderate correlation between the ICAT and SCIP scores suggests that the ICAT is a valid tool for assessing cognition, although this should be confirmed in a larger study with greater statistical power. Taken together, the ICAT seems to be a valid Web-based cognitive assessment tool that, after some minor modifications and further validation, may be used to screen for cognitive impairment in clinical settings.

Keywords: bipolar disorder; cognitive impairments; computer software; depression; executive function; memory; neuropsychological tests; screening; speech recognition software.