Article Text

Feasibility of using touch screen technology for early cognitive assessment in children
  1. Deirdre M Twomey1,
  2. Conal Wrigley1,2,
  3. Caroline Ahearne1,
  4. Raegan Murphy2,
  5. Michelle De Haan3,
  6. Neil Marlow4,
  7. Deirdre M Murray1
  1. 1Department of Paediatrics and Child Health, University College Cork, Cork, Ireland
  2. 2Department of Applied Psychology, University College Cork, Cork, Ireland
  3. 3Centre for Developmental Cognitive Neurosciences, University College London, London, UK
  4. 4UCL Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Institute for Women’s Health, University College London, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Deirdre M Murray, Department of Paediatrics and Child Health, University College Cork, Cork, Ireland ; d.murray{at}


Objective To explore the feasibility of using a touch screen assessment tool to measure cognitive capacity in toddlers.

Design 112 typically developing children with a median age of 31 months (IQR: 26–34) interacted with a touch screen cognitive assessment tool. We examined the sensitivity of the tool to age-related changes in cognition by comparing the number of items completed, speed of task completion and accuracy in two age groups; 24–29 months versus 30–36 months.

Results Children aged 30–36 months completed more tasks (median: 18, IQR: 18–18) than those aged 24–29 months (median: 17, IQR: 15–18). Older children also completed two of the three working memory tasks and an object permanence task faster than their younger peers. Children became faster at completing the working memory items with each exposure and registered similar completion times on the hidden object retrieval items, despite task demands being twofold on the second exposure. A novel item required children to integrate what they had learnt on preceding items. The older group was more likely to complete this item and to do so faster than the younger group.

Conclusions Children as young as 24 months can complete items requiring cognitive engagement on a touch screen device, with no verbal instruction and minimal child–administrator interaction. This paves the way for using touch screen technology for language and administrator independent developmental assessment in toddlers.

  • developmental assessment
  • cognitive outcome
  • touch screen technology
  • assessment outcome

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  • Contributors CW, CA, RM, MDH, NM and DMM contributed to the research design and protocol development. CW recruited the participants and performed the assessments. DMT, CW and DMM analysed the data. DMT, CW, CA, RM, MDH, NM and DMM prepared, edited and contributed to the manuscript preparation.

  • Funding This work was supported by a supplemental Knowledge Exchange and Dissemination Support (KEDS) award from the Health Research Board to the CSA award (CSA/40/2012) and a Science Foundation Ireland Centres Programme Award (12/RC/2272). NM receives part funding from the Department of Health’s NIHR Biomedical Research Centre’s funding scheme at UCLH/UCL.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Ethics approval University College Cork Ethics Committee and the Clinical Research Ethics Committee of the Cork Teaching Hospitals.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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