DOMAIN SPECIFIC TASKS OF EXECUTIVE FUNCTIONS 

RELEASE DATE:  April 6, 2004
 
NOTICE:  NOT-NS-04-012 

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS)
 (http://www.ninds.nih.gov/)
 
The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) is 
exploring the market interest and capabilities relating to the development of 
valid, reliable and domain specific tasks of Executive Functions for 
measurement and adequate intervention of executive dysfunction in 
neurological disorders.  NINDS is attempting to identify competent sources to 
establish and coordinate the research activities leading to new measurement 
approaches.

Background

Executive Function (EF) refers to a constellation of cognitive abilities that 
include the ability to plan, organize, and sequence tasks and manage multiple 
tasks simultaneously. Appropriate EF also includes components of self-
monitoring and self-correcting behaviors. These important behaviors are 
compromised in healthy elders and in people with neurological, mental and age 
related disorders, leading to disruption of lifestyle and loss of 
independence. One obstacle for progressive research in this area of cognition 
is a paucity of valid and reliable tasks that specifically tap domains of EF. 

While some research has been ongoing with funding from NIH, the National 
Science Foundation and the McDonnell Foundation, it has been difficult to 
establish standard operational definitions of Executive Functions, resolve 
areas of controversies such as the design and validation of comprehensive 
neuropsychological tests to assess multiple domains of Executive Function in 
both basic and clinical research settings. This solicitation will take 
advantage of the state of our knowledge on research issues such as: neural 
pathways associated with executive function; appropriate animal models to 
study executive function; the nature, extent and rate of change of executive 
function in pathological states; the characterization – sparing or impairment 
- of executive function in neurodegenerative diseases; current tasks for 
assessment of executive function and the development of new tasks; factors 
that modulate executive function; and feasible behavioral and/or 
pharmacological interventions.  

The development of domain specific tasks of executive function as specified 
in this proposed  solicitation will be of considerable value to many of NINDS 
current  and future  research programs in neurological disorders where 
dysfunction in cognitive processes are integral components of functional 
outcomes and quality of life for affected patients. While there are numerous 
neuropsychological test batteries, their use has been maximized in research 
settings with little attention paid to adaptability to clinical trials. 
However, some aspects of “executive function” are being incorporated into 
many recent or current clinical trials in neurology, usually as secondary 
outcome measures.  Many neuropsychological assessment scales have been 
developed for use in various disease settings; however, some of the existing 
scales have questionable validity and there is no consensus on what methods 
should be used within or across studies or disease areas.  The lack of 
consensus about the best tools or approaches creates a situation where based 
on the existing literature, it is not possible to compare the relative burden 
of various neurological conditions to each other or more importantly, to 
compare the relative benefits of one treatment over another on the same 
patient-centered outcome. Supporting a research agenda that will create a 
battery of domain specific Executive Function tasks would greatly increase 
the probability for more precise clinical assessment and integration in a 
large range of basic brain research. 
 
Goals of the Proposed Initiative

The overall goal of this initiative would be to obtain a battery of tasks for 
EF that tap into its specific components that are comparable in animals and 
humans and the development of a battery of EF tasks with the specific 
characteristics such as: 
     
o focused on one or more of the following six domains:  inhibition (response 
suppression); working memory (manipulation and maintenance of information; 
temporal organization (time & place); set shifting (mental flexibility); self 
monitoring (behavioral awareness, insight); abstraction (rules, categories).
o modifiable (depending on individual protocols or paradigms and individual 
differences)
o programmable; replicable (flexible across laboratories)
o usable across species (rodents, monkeys, humans) and across age groups
o adaptable for clinical trials
o utilizes naturalistic situations (virtual reality)
o includes functional outcomes (sensitive to treatment, training, drugs) 

Information Requested

Information in the following areas could aid in the design of a possible 
future solicitation.  We ask that interested organizations help identify 
critical criteria that would be germane to any such solicitation.  The 
information supplied in any response to this request should address, but not 
be limited to the following:

o General scientific approach to identifying content and developing measures, 
considering the current state-of the-art in qualitative and quantitative 
psychometric methods;
o Overall estimation of the number of personnel required and specific 
expertise needed, with approximate level of effort required for each;
o Availability of technology;
o Target populations (e.g., source, characteristics, numbers needed for each 
phase);
o Human subjects concerns;
o Methods of evaluation of data;
o Database/data management requirements;
o Project timeline.

This Request for Information (RFI) is for information and planning purposes 
only and shall not be construed as a solicitation or as an obligation on the 
part of the Government.  The Government does not intend to award a contract 
on the basis of responses nor otherwise pay for the preparation of any 
information submitted or the Government’s use of such information.  
Acknowledgement of receipt of responses will not be made, nor will 
respondents be notified of the Government’s evaluation of the information 
received.  However, should such a requirement materialize, no basis for 
claims against the Government shall arise as a result of a response to this 
request for information or the Government’s use of such information as either 
part of our evaluation process or in developing specifications for any 
subsequent requirement.  Responses will be held in a confidential manner.  
Any proprietary information should be so marked.

All respondents are asked to indicate the type and size of your business 
organization, e.g., Large Business, Small Business, Veteran-Owned Small 
Business, Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business, HUBZone Small 
Business, Small Disadvantaged Business, Women-Owned Business, 8(a), 
Historically Black College or University/Minority Institution (HBCU/MI), 
educational institution, profit/non-profit hospital, or other nonprofit 
organization. 

Responses should be limited to 20 pages, should be identified with NINDS RFI 
No. NOT-NS-04-012 and are due by May 3, 2004.  Please submit three (3) copies 
of your response to: 

Helene Braun
Contract Specialist 
Contracts Management Branch 
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke 
NIH
6001 Executive Boulevard, Room 3287 MSC 9531 
Bethesda, Maryland 20892-9531.  
(for FedEx or courier, use: Rockville, MD 20852)

E-mail responses, sent to hb106s@nih.gov, will also be accepted.


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