We are happy to present to you the findings from the first paper that has been published as part of PROTECT. This aspect of the study focussed on investigating the validity of an internet-based system for measuring changes in cognitive function. While there are some true advantages of an online testing system (for example, reaching people who are not otherwise able to attend testing in a clinical setting) we need to be sure that our measures are useful, reliable, sensitive and valid.
For this paper, we focussed on the CogTrack™ System. You will recognise this as the cognitive assessment that takes you to the third-party website. The CogTrack™ System monitors changes in important aspects of cognitive function using tests of attention, information processing and episodic memory.
During the first six months of the study, 14,531 individuals aged 50 to 94 years performed the CogTrack™ System, 8,627 of whom completed three test sessions. Repeated testing showed familiarisation effects on four of the ten measures which had largely stabilised by the third test session. This means that as participants became more familiar with the tasks, they performed better. We see this when cognitive tests are performed in a laboratory setting, so it is great that the online system reflected this too.
We know that cognition naturally declines with age, resulting in abilities such as memory and attention ‘slowing down’. Evaluation of the influence of age identified clinically relevant declines over the age range of the population on one or more measures from all tasks. Again, we want the online system to reflect results obtained in a clinical setting, so these results are positive in terms of the utility of online testing.
The results of these analyses identify CogTrack™ to be a practical and valid method to reliably, sensitively, remotely and repeatedly collect cognitive data from large samples of individuals.
We will continue to update all participants with exciting new findings.