24 April 2015
A new tablet device version (IOS platform) of the Spatial Delayed Recognition Span Task (SDRST) was developed with the aim of investigating visuospatial Working Memory (WM) abilities based on touchscreen technology. This new WM testing application will be available to download for free in Apple Store app (“SDRST app”). In order to verify the feasibility of this computer-based task, we conducted three experiments with different manipulations and groups of participants. We were interested in investigating if (1) the SDRST is sensitive enough to tap into cognitive differences brought by aging and dementia; (2) different experimental manipulations work successfully; (3) cortical brain activations seen in other WM tasks are also demonstrated here; and (4) non-human primates are able to answer the task. Performance (scores and response time) was better for young than older adults and higher for the latter when compared to Alzheimer’s disease (AD) patients. All groups performed better with facial stimuli than with images of scenes and with emotional than with neutral stimuli. Electrophysiology data showed activation on prefrontal and frontal areas of scalp, theta band activity on the midline area, and gamma activity in left temporal area. There are all scalp regions known to be related to attention and WM. Besides those data, our sample of adult captive capuchin monkeys ( Sapajus libidinosus) answered the task above chance level. Taken together, these results corroborate the reliability of this new computer-based SDRST as a measure of visuospatial WM in clinical and non-clinical populations as well as in non-human primates. Its tablet app allows the task to be administered in a wide range of settings, including hospitals, homes, schools, laboratories, universities, and research institutions.