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Measuring Episodic Memory Across the Lifespan: NIH Toolbox Picture Sequence Memory Test

  • Sureyya S. Dikmen (a1), Patricia J. Bauer (a2), Sandra Weintraub (a3), Dan Mungas (a4), Jerry Slotkin (a5), Jennifer L. Beaumont (a5), Richard Gershon (a5), Nancy R. Temkin (a6) and Robert K. Heaton (a7)...


Episodic memory is one of the most important cognitive domains that involves acquiring, storing and recalling new information. In this article, we describe a new measure developed for the NIH Toolbox, called the Picture Sequence Memory Test (PSMT) that is the first to examine episodic memory across the age range from 3 to 85. We describe the development of the measure and present validation data for ages 20 to 85. The PSMT involves presentation of sequences of pictured objects and activities in a fixed order on a computer screen and simultaneously verbally described, that the participant must remember and then reproduce over three learning trials. The results indicate good test–retest reliability and construct validity. Performance is strongly related to well-established “gold standard” measures of episodic memory and, as expected, much less well correlated with those of a measure of vocabulary. It shows clear decline with aging in parallel with a gold standard summary measure and relates to several other demographic factors and to self-reported general health status. The PSMT appears to be a reliable and valid test of episodic memory for adults, a finding similar to those found for the same measure with children. (JINS, 2014, 20, 1–9)


Corresponding author

Correspondence and reprint requests to: Sureyya S. Dikmen, Department of Rehabilitation Medicine, University of Washington, 325 Ninth Avenue, Box 359612, Seattle, WA 98104. E-mail:


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