A Comparison between the Trail Making Test in Virtual Reality and the Standard Method of Administration


Jessica Panoski

Keywords: Trail Making Test, neuropsychological testing, virtual reality


    This study was designed to compare and contrast the standard method of the Trail Making Test (TMT) and a parallel form of this test in virtual reality (VR). The Trail Making Test was developed in 1944 as part of the Army Individual Test Battery by a group of Army psychologists' (Lezak, 1995). However, presently it is a subtest of the Halstead-Reitan Battery, and consists of two parts, Part A and B. The test can be paralleled to a "connect-the-dots" game in which the testtaker must connect several circles without the pencil leaving the paper.  The TMT measures global functioning in the brain, but for the purposes of this study the  executive functions were more closely observed. Research confirms that there are no gender differences on the standard version (paper-and-pencil) of the TMT, but, however, there would be gender differences on the VR version. This hypothesis was supported because research has manifested differences in way finding strategies between males and females. For example, males use "cardinal directions," whereas females use landmarks when giving directions (Ward, Newcombe, & Overton, 1986). It was also predicted that males would complete the VR version of the TMT faster relative to females because of the level of familiarity and/or experience that males may have with computers and/or three-dimensional environments because they play video more often. All participants were given an Immersive Tendencies Questionnaire, and completed both the standard version and VR version of the Trail Making Test. Results conveyed no gender differences on the standard version; however, there were gender differences on the VR version, but only on Part A. Results were also consistent with the hypothesis that Part B is more difficult than Part A on the standard version of the TMT, therefore, it would take longer to complete.

    Further research on this topic is recommended to better assess the future possibilities of conducting neuropsychological testing in virtual reality. A different neuropsychological test is suggested for measuring cognitive functions or dysfunction's in virtual reality, meaning that a more recent, sound test would likely lead to more significant results.