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Effects of face masks and tele-neuropsychological assessment on memory performance for commonly used neuropsychological tests in New Zealand

Research has shown that using face masks within a neuropsychological assessment can negatively affect an individual's recall and recognition performance (Rodriguez, 2022; Smerdon, 2022; Truong & Weber, 2021). Similarly, previous literature states that administering neuropsychological assessment through videoconferencing software has also been found to negatively affect an individual's test performance during neuropsychological assessment (Zendel et al., 2021). These effects are thought to be explained by face masks and online assessments increasing cognitive load and, therefore, affecting working memory (Byyny, 2016; Lee et al., 2022). This study aims to extend previous literature by examining whether face masks and online home-based neuropsychological assessment affect memory test performance for cognitively healthy adults in New Zealand. The tests examined in this study are Logical Memory (WMS-IV), The Rey Auditory Verbal Learning (RAVLT), Digit Span and Letter Number Sequencing (WAIS-IV). Sixty-three participants were recruited through the University of Waikato, posters/flyers, Facebook, and researcher networks. All participants were screened for eligibility; inclusion criteria to participate were English being their primary language, no current illnesses, impairments, or medical conditions that may affect cognitive functioning (Mahon et al., 2021). Participants were placed into two groups (online or in-person). Each participant completed two test sessions in a counterbalanced order; one session was completed with the examiner wearing a face mask and one unmasked. A series of two-way repeated measures ANOVAs were conducted to investigate test performance differences between mask and location conditions. Results found no evidence to support that the use of face masks and online home-based assessment significantly affected examinee memory test performance. These findings support the feasibility of using face masks and online assessments to meet pandemic mandates.
Type of thesis
The University of Waikato
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