Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory


Date of this Version



Published in The Clinical Neuropsychologist 18 (2004), pp. 411–422; doi 10.1080/138540409052416 Copyright © 2004 Taylor and Francis Ltd. Used by permission.


Preschool children have a more limited verbal repertoire, less proficient manual skills, and more variable attention spans relative to those of school age, with comparatively few neuropsychological tasks available for use in this age range. A prototypic neuropsychological test, the Trail Making Test, was adapted for use with young children, the TRAILS-P, using a developmentally salient storybook format with colorful stimuli in differing conditions with varying executive demands. The TRAILS-P was administered to 103 normally developing preschoolers between 2 and 6 years of age; 30 of these children were retested within one month to determine test reliability. Correlations among latencies to complete each condition and condition errors generally were moderate to high, suggesting coherence in test content. There also was evidence for good test-retest reliability. Latency to complete the TRAILS-P conditions differed as a function of the interaction of condition type and age group. Although the youngest children generally took more time to complete all TRAILS-P conditions, 3-year-old children were disproportionately slow to complete the condition that required shifting between stamping stimuli of two classes, with distraction by the additional presence of irrelevant stimuli. In contrast, the number of errors differed only in the 5-year-olds relative to younger children. These findings suggest that executive abilities can be assessed adequately in young children when tasks are designed to take advantage of the developmentally unique features of the preschool period.

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