TitleA New Brief Measure of Executive Function: Adapting the Head-Toes-Knees-Shoulders Task to Older Adults.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2019
AuthorsCerino, ES, Hooker, K, Stawski, RS, McClelland, MM
Date Published07/2019

Background and Objectives: Executive function (EF) abilities are recognized as components of cognition most likely to show age-related declines. Measurement of EF in older adults is often computer-based, takes place in a laboratory setting, and thus lacks ecological validity. We sought to investigate a new way of measuring EF in older adults by adapting a brief, behavioral measure of EF in children, the Head-Toes-Knees-Shoulders task (HTKS).

Research Design and Methods: A sample of 150 community-dwelling older adults (Mean age = 68.55, SD = 6.34) completed the HTKS, NIH Toolbox: Cognition Battery (NIHTB-CB) and Positive and Negative Affect Schedule.

Results: The HTKS showed adequate internal consistency, α = .84. Significant associations between HTKS variables and measures of attention and inhibitory control were robust to the influences of age, processing speed, and subjective health ratings. HTKS completion time exhibited the strongest associations to NIHTB-CB measures, suggesting that the time it takes older adults to complete the HTKS may be a better measure of EF than the total score. Nonsignificant associations between HTKS variables and positive and negative affect demonstrated discriminant validity.

Discussion and Implications: These results provide initial evidence for use of the HTKS as a brief, low-cost, easy to administer measure of EF in older adults. Further research is needed to determine its potential to identify individuals at risk for poor cognitive outcomes. A brief, valid measure may allow for wider screenings aimed at early intervention, when cognitive interventions are most effective.

Alternate JournalGerontologist
PubMed ID29648598