Groton Maze Learning Test

The Groton Maze Learning Test uses a maze learning paradigm to measure executive function.

Administration Time (in healthy volunteers): 7 Minutes

Cognitive Domain Measured: Executive Function

Groton Maze Learning Test Description

The subject is shown a 10 x 10 grid of tiles on a computer touch screen. A 28-step pathway is hidden among these 100 possible locations. The start is indicated by the blue tile at the top left and the finish location is the tile with the red circles at the bottom right of the grid. The subject is instructed to move one step from the start location and then to continue, one tile at a time, toward the end (bottom right).

The subject moves by touching a tile next to their current location. After each move is made, the computer indicates whether this is correct by revealing a green checkmark (i.e. this is the next step in the pathway), or incorrect by revealing a red cross (i.e. this is not the next step in the pathway, or the subject has broken a rule, see below). If a choice is incorrect (i.e. a red cross is revealed), the subject must touch the last correct location (i.e. the last green checkmark revealed) and then make a different tile choice to advance toward the end.

While moving through the hidden maze, the subject is required to adhere to two rules. Firstly, the subject cannot move diagonally or touch the same tile twice in succession. Secondly, the subject cannot move backwards along the pathway (e.g. move back to a location that displayed a green tick, but from which they have since moved on from).

If the subject chooses a tile that is not part of the hidden pathway, but the tile choice is within the rules, this is recorded as a different type of error (e.g. not a rule break). This could be due to chance (the first time through the maze) or due to misremembering the path on subsequent attempts.

The subject learns the 28-step pathway though the maze on the basis of this trial and error feedback. Once completed, they are returned to the start location and repeat the test, usually 4 more times, trying to remember the pathway they have just completed.

There are 20 well-matched alternate forms for this test, and these are selected in pseudo-random order to ensure that no subject will complete the same hidden path on any two different testing sessions throughout a study.

Primary Outcome measure

Unit of measurement: Errors

Description and interpretation of scores: Total number of errors made in attempting to learn the same hidden pathway on five consecutive trials at a single session. (Lower score = better performance)