Abstract

A major challenge for neuropsychological research arises from the fact that we are dealing with a limited resource: the patients. Not only is it difficult to identify and recruit these individuals, but their ability to participate in research projects can be limited by their medical condition. As such, sample sizes are small, and considerable time (e.g., 2 years) is required to complete a study. To address limitations inherent to laboratory-based neuropsychological research, we developed a protocol for online neuropsychological testing (PONT). We describe the implementation of PONT and provide the required information and materials for recruiting participants, conducting remote neurological evaluations, and testing patients in an automated, self-administered manner. The protocol can be easily tailored to target a broad range of patient groups, especially those who can be contacted via support groups or multisite collaborations. To highlight the operation of PONT and describe some of the unique challenges that arise in online neuropsychological research, we summarize our experience using PONT in a research program involving individuals with Parkinson's disease and spinocerebellar ataxia. In a 10-month period, by contacting 646 support group coordinators, we were able to assemble a participant pool with over 100 patients in each group from across the United States. Moreover, we completed six experiments (n > 300) exploring their performance on a range of tasks examining motor and cognitive abilities. The efficiency of PONT in terms of data collection, combined with the convenience it offers the participants, promises a new approach that can increase the impact of neuropsychological research.

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