NIH Toolbox Simplifies, Streamlines Neuroscience Measures

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'N I H Toolbox: Motor, Emotion, Sensation, Cognition'Researchers looking at neurological outcomes have some brand new tools—a set of brief but comprehensive tests to measure motor, cognitive, sensory, and emotional function in people aged 3 to 85.

Unveiled in September, the NIH Toolbox for Assessment of Behavioral and Neurological Function provides common, standardized measurements, designed for use particularly in large-scale research, like epidemiological studies or clinical trials, that will make it easier to pool data and compare results among studies. It will also make neurological and behavioral assessment faster and cheaper. The intent is to produce economies of time and cost in these types of studies by allowing richer data to be collected without creating undue burden for study participants.

The online, royalty-free tests (in English and Spanish), which use state-of-the-art psychometric approaches and computer-adaptive testing, are briefer than tests now in use and don’t require a highly trained scientist to administer. All were validated against longer tests and in different cultures and ethnic and geographic groups. Also, unlike many of the tests now used, they can assess a continuum of health from dysfunction through superfunction.

The NIH Toolbox was developed under the auspices of the NIH Blueprint for Neuroscience Research and involved more than 235 scientists around the world, led by Richard Gershon, Ph.D., at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine. The NIH contact is Molly V. Wagster, Ph.D., in the National Institute on Aging’s Division of Neuroscience.