Unveiling Trail Making Test: visual and manual trajectories indexing multiple executive processes
Sci Rep. 2022 Aug 22;12(1):14265. doi: 10.1038/s41598-022-16431-9.
The Trail Making Test (TMT) is one of the most popular neuropsychological tests for executive functions (EFs) assessment. It presents several strengths: it is sensitive to executive dysfunction, it is easy to understand, and has a short administration. However, it has important limitations. First, the underlying EFs articulated during the task are not well discriminated, which makes it a test with low specificity. Second, the pen-and-paper version presents one trial per condition which introduces high variability. Third, only the total time is quantified, which does not allow for a detailed analysis. Fourth, it has a fixed spatial configuration per condition. We designed a computerised version of the TMT to overcome its main limitations and evaluated it in a group of neurotypical adults. Eye and hand positions are measured with high resolution over several trials, and spatial configuration is controlled. Our results showed a very similar performance profile compared to the traditional TMT. Moreover, it revealed differences in eye movements between parts A and B. Most importantly, based on hand and eye movements, we found an internal working memory measure that showed an association to a validated working memory task. Additionally, we proposed another internal measure as a potential marker of inhibitory control. Our results showed that EFs can be studied in more detail using traditional tests combined with powerful digital setups. The cTMT showed potential use in older adult populations and patients with EFs disorders.