Reliability of the NIH toolbox cognitive battery in children and adolescents: A 3-year longitudinal examination

Brittany K. Taylor, Michaela R. Frenzel, Jacob A. Eastman, Alex I. Wiesman, Yu Ping Wang, Vince D. Calhoun, Julia M. Stephen, Tony W. Wilson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background. The Cognitive Battery of the National Institutes of Health Toolbox (NIH-TB) is a collection of assessments that have been adapted and normed for administration across the lifespan and is increasingly used in large-scale population-level research. However, despite increasing adoption in longitudinal investigations of neurocognitive development, and growing recommendations that the Toolbox be used in clinical applications, little is known about the long-term temporal stability of the NIH-TB, particularly in youth. Methods. The present study examined the long-term temporal reliability of the NIH-TB in a large cohort of youth (9-15 years-old) recruited across two data collection sites. Participants were invited to complete testing annually for 3 years. Results. Reliability was generally low-to-moderate, with intraclass correlation coefficients ranging between 0.31 and 0.76 for the full sample. There were multiple significant differences between sites, with one site generally exhibiting stronger temporal stability than the other. Conclusions. Reliability of the NIH-TB Cognitive Battery was lower than expected given early work examining shorter test-retest intervals. Moreover, there were very few instances of tests meeting stability requirements for use in research; none of the tests exhibited adequate reliability for use in clinical applications. Reliability is paramount to establishing the validity of the tool, thus the constructs assessed by the NIH-TB may vary over time in youth. We recommend further refinement of the NIH-TB Cognitive Battery and its norming procedures for children before further adoption as a neuropsychological assessment. We also urge researchers who have already employed the NIH-TB in their studies to interpret their results with caution.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalPsychological medicine
StateAccepted/In press - 2020


  • Child and adolescent development
  • Cognitive neuroscience
  • Longitudinal
  • NIH toolbox
  • Testretest reliability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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