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Data from neurocognitive assessments may not be accurate in the context of factors impacting validity, such as disengagement, unmotivated responding, or intentional underperformance. Performance validity tests (PVTs) were developed to address these phenomena and assess underperformance on neurocognitive tests. However, PVTs can be burdensome, rely on cutoff scores that reduce information, do not examine potential variations in task engagement across a battery, and are typically not well-suited to acquisition of large cognitive datasets. Here we describe the development of novel performance validity measures that could address some of these limitations by leveraging psychometric concepts using data embedded within the Penn Computerized Neurocognitive Battery (PennCNB).
We first developed these validity measures using simulations of invalid response patterns with parameters drawn from real data. Next, we examined their application in two large, independent samples: 1) children and adolescents from the Philadelphia Neurodevelopmental Cohort (n = 9498); and 2) adult servicemembers from the Marine Resiliency Study-II (n = 1444).
Our performance validity metrics detected patterns of invalid responding in simulated data, even at subtle levels. Furthermore, a combination of these metrics significantly predicted previously established validity rules for these tests in both developmental and adult datasets. Moreover, most clinical diagnostic groups did not show reduced validity estimates.
These results provide proof-of-concept evidence for multivariate, data-driven performance validity metrics. These metrics offer a novel method for determining the performance validity for individual neurocognitive tests that is scalable, applicable across different tests, less burdensome, and dimensional. However, more research is needed into their application.
Understanding deviations from typical brain development is a promising approach to comprehend pathophysiology in childhood and adolescence. We investigated if cerebellar volumes different than expected for age and sex could predict psychopathology, executive functions and academic achievement.
Children and adolescents aged 6–17 years from the Brazilian High-Risk Cohort Study for Mental Conditions had their cerebellar volume estimated using Multiple Automatically Generated Templates from T1-weighted images at baseline (n = 677) and at 3-year follow-up (n = 447). Outcomes were assessed using the Child Behavior Checklist and standardized measures of executive functions and school achievement. Models of typically developing cerebellum were based on a subsample not exposed to risk factors and without mental-health conditions (n = 216). Deviations from this model were constructed for the remaining individuals (n = 461) and standardized variation from age and sex trajectory model was used to predict outcomes in cross-sectional, longitudinal and mediation analyses.
Cerebellar volumes higher than expected for age and sex were associated with lower externalizing specific factor and higher executive functions. In a longitudinal analysis, deviations from typical development at baseline predicted inhibitory control at follow-up, and cerebellar deviation changes from baseline to follow-up predicted changes in reading and writing abilities. The association between deviations in cerebellar volume and academic achievement was mediated by inhibitory control.
Deviations in the cerebellar typical development are associated with outcomes in youth that have long-lasting consequences. This study highlights both the potential of typical developing models and the important role of the cerebellum in mental health, cognition and education.
Traumatic stressors during childhood and adolescence are associated with psychopathology, mostly studied in the context of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression. We investigated broader associations of traumatic stress exposure with psychopathology and cognition in a youth community sample.
The Philadelphia Neurodevelopmental Cohort (N = 9498) is an investigation of clinical and neurobehavioral phenotypes in a diverse (56% Caucasian, 33% African American, 11% other) US youth community population (aged 8–21). Participants were ascertained through children's hospital pediatric (not psychiatric) healthcare network in 2009–2011. Structured psychiatric evaluation included screening for lifetime exposure to traumatic stressors, and a neurocognitive battery was administered.
Exposure rate to traumatic stressful events was high (none, N = 5204; one, N = 2182; two, N = 1092; three or more, N = 830). Higher stress load was associated with increased psychopathology across all clinical domains evaluated: mood/anxiety (standardized β = .378); psychosis spectrum (β = .360); externalizing behaviors (β = .311); and fear (β = .256) (controlling for covariates, all p < 0.001). Associations remained significant controlling for lifetime PTSD and depression. Exposure to high-stress load was robustly associated with suicidal ideation and cannabis use (odds ratio compared with non-exposed 5.3 and 3.2, respectively, both p < 0.001). Among youths who experienced traumatic stress (N = 4104), history of assaultive trauma was associated with greater psychopathology and, in males, vulnerability to psychosis and externalizing symptoms. Stress load was negatively associated with performance on executive functioning, complex reasoning, and social cognition.
Traumatic stress exposure in community non-psychiatric help-seeking youth is substantial, and is associated with more severe psychopathology and neurocognitive deficits across domains, beyond PTSD and depression.
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