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.

For the named items in the table above, links are provided to their corresponding content on CLOSER Discovery. Where a variable range is provided, full variable lists can be accessed through the ‘Variable Groups’ tab on the linked Discovery page.


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