Digital Technology Differentiates Graphomotor and Information Processing Speed Patterns of Behavior

Stacy L. Andersen, Benjamin Sweigart, Nancy W. Glynn, Mary K. Wojczynski, Bharat Thyagarajan, Jonas Mengel-From, Stephen Thielke, Thomas T. Perls, David J. Libon, Rhoda Au, Stephanie Cosentino, Paola Sebastianion

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Background: Coupling digital technology with traditional neuropsychological test performance allows collection of high-precision metrics that can clarify and/or define underlying constructs related to brain and cognition. Objective: To identify graphomotor and information processing trajectories using a digitally administered version of the Digit Symbol Substitution Test (DSST). Methods: A subset of Long Life Family Study participants (n = 1,594) completed the DSST. Total time to draw each symbol was divided into 'writing' and non-writing or 'thinking' time. Bayesian clustering grouped participants by change in median time over intervals of eight consecutively drawn symbols across the 90 s test. Clusters were characterized based on sociodemographic characteristics, health and physical function data, APOE genotype, and neuropsychological test scores. Results: Clustering revealed four 'thinking' time trajectories, with two clusters showing significant changes within the test. Participants in these clusters obtained lower episodic memory scores but were similar in other health and functional characteristics. Clustering of 'writing' time also revealed four performance trajectories where one cluster of participants showed progressively slower writing time. These participants had weaker grip strength, slower gait speed, and greater perceived physical fatigability, but no differences in cognitive test scores. Conclusion: Digital data identified previously unrecognized patterns of 'writing' and 'thinking' time that cannot be detected without digital technology. These patterns of performance were differentially associated with measures of cognitive and physical function and may constitute specific neurocognitive biomarkers signaling the presence of subtle to mild dysfunction. Such information could inform the selection and timing of in-depth neuropsychological assessments and help target interventions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)17-32
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Alzheimer's Disease
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2021


  • Aging
  • bayesian approach
  • boston process approach
  • digit symbol substitution test
  • executive function
  • graphomotor performance
  • neuropsychological tests


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