Clinical reports after traumatic brain injury (TBI) suggest frequent difficulties with sustained attention, but their objective measurement has proved difficult. In 1997, Robertson and colleagues reported on a new sustained attention assessment tool, the sustained attention to response task (SART). Individuals with TBI were reported to produce more errors of commission on the SART than control participants, and both groups showed a relationship between SART errors and everyday lapses of attention as measured by the cognitive failures questionnaire (CFQ). Although few direct replications of these findings have been reported, the SART has been used widely as a measure of sustained attention in TBI, in normal controls, and in various other clinical samples.
As part of a program of research on attention in TBI, we administered the SART and the CFQ to a sample of 34 survivors of moderate to severe TBI and to 35 control participants. CFQ scores reported by significant others showed clear group differences in everyday lapses of attention. Despite this, group differences in SART errors of commission were small and non-significant, and the correlations between SART errors and CFQ scores were small within both groups. Further analyses excluding participants with invalid score profiles, or restricting the analysis to the first performance of the SART failed to alter the results.
These findings suggest that more research is needed to establish the validity of the SART as a measure of sustained attention after TBI, and to determine under what circumstances the original findings hold.
Whyte, John; Grieb-Neff, Patricia; Gantz, Christopher; and Polansky, Marcia, "Measuring sustained attention after traumatic brain injury: Differences in key findings from the sustained attention to response task (SART)" (2006). Department of Rehabilitation Medicine Faculty Papers. Paper 1.