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Practice effects on the modified Concept Shifting Task (mCST): A convenient assessment for treatment effects on prefrontal cognitive function

Karina K Kedzior1*, Stuti Kochhar1, Hannah S Eich1, Vikram Rajput23 and Mathew T Martin-Iverson23

Author Affiliations

1 School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Jacobs University Bremen, Campus Ring 1, 28759 Bremen, Germany

2 Clinical Neurophysiology Unit, Graylands Hospital, John XXIII Avenue, Mt Claremont 6010, Perth, Australia

3 Pharmacology & Anaesthesiology Unit, School of Medicine & Pharmacology, Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry & Health Sciences, The University of Western Australia, 35 Stirling Highway, Crawley 6009, Perth, Australia

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BMC Neuroscience 2011, 12:101  doi:10.1186/1471-2202-12-101

Published: 11 October 2011



Trail-making tests, such as the Concept Shifting Task (CST), can be used to test the effects of treatment on cognitive performance over time in various neuropsychological disorders. However, cognitive performance in such experimental designs might improve as a result of the practice obtained during repeated testing rather than the treatment itself. The current study investigated if practice affects the accuracy and duration of performance on the repeatedly administered Concept Shifting Task modified to make it resistant to practice (mCST). The mCST was administered to 54 healthy participants twice a day, before and after a short break, for eight days. Results. The ANOVA and meta-analysis showed that there was no improvement in the mCST accuracy on the last vs. the first trial (Hedges' g = .14, p = .221) or within the session (after vs. before the break on all days; g = .01, p = .922). However, the participants performed the task faster on the last vs. the first trial (g = -.75, p < .001) and after vs. before the break on all days (g = -.12, p = .002). Conclusions. Repeated administration of the mCST does not affect the accuracy of performance on the test. However, practice might contribute to faster performance on the mCST over time and within each session.

modified Concept Shifting Task (mCST); Trail-Making test; practice effects; meta-analysis, prefrontal cognitive function