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PASAT performance improves across adolescence in a sex-specific manner

16 December 2013


BACKGROUND: The Paced Auditory Serial Addition Test (PASAT) is a sensitive measure of speed of information processing, sustained attention, and working memory. Notably, many of these cognitive processes develop across adolescence. Since much of the research has used the PASAT with adult populations, its effectiveness in assessing adolescent cognitive maturation remains unclear. In the current study, I examined several predictor variables of PASAT performance in a large sample of typically developing adolescents. Broadly, the aim of the current study was to investigate the development of executive functions across adolescence in order to enhance our understanding of brain behavior relationships during this important developmental period. More specifically, I wanted to assess the relationship between age and executive functioning by looking at performance on a sensitive measure of executive functioning, the PASAT, in an adolescent population. In the current study, I examined several predictor variables (age, sex, and IQ) of PASAT performance. METHOD: 101 adolescent boys and girls, ages 10 to 16 years (M =13.1, SD = 1.7), completed a modified version of the PASAT that included 3.0 second (s) and 2.0s trials. Independent stepwise multiple regression analyses were conducted to determine the extent to which age, IQ, and gender predicted accuracy in performance on both trials of the PASAT in adolescents. RESULTS: Regression results indicated that the linear combination of age, IQ, and sex significantly predicted performance on the PASAT 3.0s. Age was the strongest predictor of PASAT 3.0s performance, with an increase in performance seen across adolescence. A significant positive relationship was also seen between PASAT 3.0s performance and IQ. Lastly, sex also was a significant predictor, with boys performing significantly better than girls. Similar results were seen when examining the influence of age, IQ, and sex on PASAT 2.0s performance. CONCLUSIONS: Overall, these results show performance on a modified adult version of the PASAT improves across adolescence, and that IQ and sex are also contributory. These findings suggest that the adult version of the PASAT is an appropriate and sensitive measure to capture the development of higher-order cognitive processes during adolescence.


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