ALSPAC – Age 17.5 – Working Memory (N-back Task)

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The Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) assessed their cohort members (CMs) during the study’s age 17.5 sweep (TeenFocus 4) using a measure of Working Memory (N-back Task).

Details on this measure and the data collected from the CMs are outlined in the table below.


Domain:Non-verbal memory
Measures:Working memory
Executive function
CHC:Short-Term Memory (Gsm)
Administration method:Trained interviewer; clinical setting; CAPI
Procedure:In the N-Back task, participants were presented with a sequence of stimuli one-by-one. They had to decide whether the current stimulus was the same as the one presented N trials ago. In this case, N was either 1, 2, or 3 trials. The higher the number, the more difficult the task. Visuospatial stimuli (letters and numbers) were used in the trials.
Link to questionnaire:http://www.bristol.ac.uk/alspac/researchers/our-data/clinical-measures/ (opens in new tab)
Scoring:Mean accuracy and median reaction time.
Item-level variable(s):Not readily available
Total score/derived variable(s):FJNB001 - FJNB1000
Descriptives:Mean accuracy to identify non-targets (2-back condition)
N = 3,595
Range = 0.13 - 1
Mean = 0.72
SD = 0.23
(click image to enlarge)
Age of participants:Mean = 213.59 months, SD = 5.46, Range = 195 - 240
Other sweep and/or cohort:None
Source:Kirchner, W. K. (1958). Age differences in short-term retention of rapidly changing information. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 55(4), 352.
Technical resources:None
Reference examples:Wardle, M. C., De Wit, H., Penton-Voak, I., Lewis, G., & Munafo, M. R. (2013). Lack of association between COMT and working memory in a population-based cohort of healthy young adults. Neuropsychopharmacology, 38(7), 1253.
Sinclair, L. I., Button, K. S., Munafò, M. R., Day, I. N., & Lewis, G. (2015). Possible association of APOE genotype with working memory in young adults. PloS One, 10(8), e0135894.

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This page is part of CLOSER’s ‘A guide to the cognitive measures in five British birth cohort studies’.