Dr. David Eagleman, Founder and CSO of BrainCheck

State of the science


Neurocognitive tests use small tasks to directly measure cognitive functions. These tests are crafted to measure specific aspects of brain function, such as reaction time, attention, visual processing, or memory. Using these quantitative measurements, researchers and clinicians gain powerful insight into what’s happening in the brain.

BrainCheck’s test are objective, standardized methods designed to get a snapshot of brain health. Scores on tests can be used to compare your brain functioning to that of the rest of the population, or to your own previous results.

We take well-established pencil-and-paper neurocognitive tests and turn them into interactive mobile games. By combining the best science with the capabilities of hand-held tablets, we can collect the most accurate measurements of reaction time, and — using a tablet’s accelerometer — even measure balance and coordination.

BrainCheck created a library of neurocognitive tests arranged into sets that measure specific aspects of brain function such as reaction time, attention, visual processing and memory. Using this modular system, we can easily create new batteries designed to test different cognitive functions.

BrainCheck test samples

Flanker Test example on an iPad

In the Flanker test, a row of arrows will appear on the game screen. The middle arrow will be surrounded by congruent (→ → → → →) or incongruent (← ← → ← ←) arrows. Moving as quickly and accurately as possible, you will tap the arrow key on your screen to answer which direction the middle arrow is facing.

Long reaction times and incorrect answers indicate possible problems with executive function, ability to ignore distractors, and impulse-based answers.

In the event of a brain injury, speed is slower. By introducing subtle spatial cues that you do not consciously notice, we can also measure how quickly you can reorient your attention.

Stroop Test example on an iPad

The Stroop Interference test measures the reaction time required to overcome cognitive interference.

When the name of a color (e.g., “blue,” “green,” or “red”) is displayed in an incongruent color (for example, the word “red” is shown in blue color), it takes longer to select the correct word.

We measure the difference in reaction times for congruent and incongruent color words.

The magnitude of this Stroop interference is greater in people with mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI), as compared to the normal population.

Digit Symbol Substitution Test example on an iPad

The Digit Symbol Substitution test measures general cognitive performance.

In this test, you must match an arbitrary correspondence of symbols to digits. When presented with a new symbol, you must input the corresponding digit as quickly as possible. This is a continuous performance task in which you will try to make as many correct matches as possible within a two-minute test period. Mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) patients perform significantly worse on these tasks than control subjects.

Trail Making Test example on an iPad

The Trail Making test measures visual attention and task switching. The user is asked to tap 25 dots in their correct sequence as quickly as possible. This provides information about visual search speed, scanning, speed of processing, mental flexibility, and executive functioning.

In the more challenging version, the user must tap a sequence in order while alternating letters and numbers (1 – A – 2 – B – 3 – C – …), which provides additional information on how well the brain can switch tasks. Both versions of this test have strong predictive measure for mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI).

Coordination Test example on iPad

In the early stages of a brain injury, coordination can be impaired. In the Coordination test, you will hold the tablet in front of you and try to keep the ball within the target circle – similar to a water bubble in a level. Some people are better at this to begin with than others, but its significance lies in your ability to regularly compare your test results to your baseline results.

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