Cognitive Neurodynamics, 16:767–778 (2022).
Existing neuropsychological tests of executive function often manifest a difficulty pinpointing cognitive deficits when these are intermittent and come in the form of omissions. We discuss the hypothesis that two partially interrelated reasons for this failure stem from relative inability of neuropsychological tests to explore the cognitive space and to explicitly take into account strategic and opportunistic resource allocation decisions, and to address the temporal aspects of both behaviour and task-related brain function in data analysis. Criteria for tasks suitable for neuropsychological assessment of executive function, as well as appropriate ways to analyse and interpret observed behavioural data are suggested. It is proposed that experimental tasks should be devised which emphasize typical rather than optimal performance, and that analyses should quantify path-dependent fluctuations in performance levels rather than averaged behaviour. Some implications for experimental neuropsychology are illustrated for the case of planning and problem-solving abilities and with particular reference to cognitive impairment in closed-head injury.
Keywords: Executive functions; closed-head injury; resource allocation; degeneracy; intermittency; scaling
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