Toward a Computational Neuropsychology of Cognitive Flexibility.
Cognitive inflexibility is a well-documented, yet non-specific corollary of many neurological diseases. Computational modeling of covert cognitive processes supporting cognitive flexibility may provide progress toward nosologically specific aspects of cognitive inflexibility. We review computational models of the Wisconsin Card Sorting Test (WCST), which represents a gold standard for the clinical assessment of cognitive flexibility. A parallel reinforcement-learning (RL) model provides the best conceptualization of individual trial-by-trial WCST responses among all models considered. Clinical applications of the parallel RL model suggest that patients with Parkinson's disease (PD) and patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) share a non-specific covert cognitive symptom: bradyphrenia. Impaired stimulus-response learning appears to occur specifically in patients with PD, whereas haphazard responding seems to occur specifically in patients with ALS. Computational modeling hence possesses the potential to reveal nosologically specific profiles of covert cognitive symptoms, which remain undetectable by traditionally applied behavioral methods. The present review exemplifies how computational neuropsychology may advance the assessment of cognitive flexibility. We discuss implications for neuropsychological assessment and directions for future research.