Catch the ruler: concurrent validity and test–retest reliability of the ReacStick measures of reaction time and inhibitory executive function in older people

  • Kimberley S. van Schooten
  • Lionne Duran
  • Maike Visschedijk
  • Mirjam Pijnappels
  • Stephen R. Lord
  • James Richardson
  • Kim DelbaereEmail author
Original Article



Reduced cognitive function, particularly executive function (EF), is associated with an increased risk of falling in older people. We evaluated the utility of the ReacStick test, a clinical test of reaction time, and inhibitory EF developed, for young athletes, for fall-risk assessment in older people.


To evaluate the psychometric properties of ReacStick measures of reaction time and executive functioning in healthy community-dwelling older people.


140 participants (aged 77 ± 5 years) underwent testing. Two test conditions—simple and inhibitory go/no-go—provided measures of reaction time, recognition load (difference in reaction time between conditions), and go/no-go accuracy. Concurrent validity was evaluated against the conventional tests of reaction time and EF (simple hand reaction time, trail-making test, and Stroop colour test). Discriminant ability was determined for fall-risk factors (age, gender, physiological profile assessment, and fall history). Test–retest reliability after 1 week was evaluated in 30 participants.


ReacStick reaction time correlated with tests of reaction time and EF, recognition load correlated with inhibitory EF, and go accuracy correlated with reaction time and inhibitory EF. No-go accuracy was not significantly correlated with any of the reaction time and EF tests. Test–retest reliability was good-to-excellent (ICC > 0.6) for all the outcomes. ReacStick reaction time discriminated between groups based on age, recognition load between genders, and no-go accuracy between retrospective fallers and non-fallers.


An unavoidable time pressure may result in complementary information to the traditional measures.


The ReacStick is a reliable test of reaction time and inhibitory EF in older people and could have value for fall-risk assessment.


Task switching Cognition Go–no-go Accidental falls Aged 



We like to thank our participants for participating, and research assistants Jessica Chow, Garth McInerney, Ashton May, Lillian Miles, Linda Pickett, Daniel Steffens, and Ashley Woodbury for their help with participant recruitment and assessments.


This work was supported by the Human Frontier Science Program (HFSP long-term fellowship number LT001080/2017); the Dutch Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO VIDI Grant number 91714344); the Newman Family Foundation; the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC project Grant number 1084739).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors report no conflicts of interest.

Statement of human and animal rights

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Neuroscience Research AustraliaUniversity of New South WalesSydneyAustralia
  2. 2.Department of Human Movement Sciences, Faculty of Behavioural and Movement SciencesVrije Universiteit, Amsterdam Movement SciencesAmsterdamThe Netherlands
  3. 3.Department of Physical Medicine and RehabilitationUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA

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