Assessing executive function using a computer game: Computational modeling of cognitive processes

Stuart Hagler, Holly Brugge Jimison, Misha Pavel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


Early and reliable detection of cognitive decline is one of the most important challenges of current healthcare. In this project, we developed an approach whereby a frequently played computer game can be used to assess a variety of cognitive processes and estimate the results of the pen-and-paper trail making test (TMT) - known to measure executive function, as well as visual pattern recognition, speed of processing, working memory, and set-switching ability. We developed a computational model of the TMT based on a decomposition of the test into several independent processes, each characterized by a set of parameters that can be estimated from play of a computer game designed to resemble the TMT. An empirical evaluation of the model suggests that it is possible to use the game data to estimate the parameters of the underlying cognitive processes and using the values of the parameters to estimate the TMT performance. Cognitive measures and trends in these measures can be used to identify individuals for further assessment, to provide a mechanism for improving the early detection of neurological problems, and to provide feedback and monitoring for cognitive interventions in the home.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number6732879
Pages (from-to)1442-1452
Number of pages11
JournalIEEE journal of biomedical and health informatics
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Additive stages
  • Fitts'law
  • computer game
  • executive function
  • neuropsychological test

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computer Science Applications
  • Health Informatics
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering
  • Health Information Management


Dive into the research topics of 'Assessing executive function using a computer game: Computational modeling of cognitive processes'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this