Initial Validation of a Virtual Paced Auditory Serial Addition Task

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With nearly 169,000 U.S. service members sustaining traumatic brain injuries in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2000 (Reger, Parsons, Gahm, & Rizzo, 2010), U.S. military commanders are in increasing need of more ecologically relevant neuropsychological assessment measures. To answer this call, Parsons, Silva, Pair, and Rizzo (2008) developed the Virtual Reality Cognitive Performance Assessment Test (VRCPAT), a broad based instrument used to assess multiple cognitive domains in a virtual Iraqi city. The current study sought to validate the one aspect of the VRCPAT Attention Module as an ecologically relevant measure of attention for service members with cognitive deficits using a normative sample of 27 civilian adults free of psychiatric, neurological, or physical disability deficits. As expected, the virtual reality (VR) Paced Auditory Serial Addition Task (PASAT), the cornerstone of the Attention Module, was found to correlate strongly with the traditional paper and pencil version of the PASAT (Diehr, Heaton, Miller, & Grant, 1998), as well as other neurocognitive measures of attention. We did not find that participants with higher levels of immersiveness and presence had greater performance on the VR PASAT task. Findings from the current study establish proof of concept and initial construct validity for the measure, standing as the first major work to investigate serial auditory and complex attention in a virtual environment-context with a civilian population. Implications for assessment and future research are discussed.

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Clinical Psychology (PhD)

First Advisor

Marion, Sarah DeBoard

Document Type





Brain damage, Neuropsychological tests, Attention, War wounds, Veterans




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