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Measuring cognitive flexibility

Can’t switch your focus? Your brain might not be wired for it.

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The task

To look at constantly changing large (global) objects, and identify the smaller (local) shapes which comprise them.

"This skill is called cognitive flexibility, and it is involved in virtually every complex behavior we undertake — from mental arithmetic to driving a car," according to John Medaglia, PhD, an assistant professor of psychology in the College of Arts and Sciences at Drexel University.

“How fast people can make that transition – from the global to the local – is the switch cost, and that’s our index of flexibility,” continues John. “For some people, that’s a very jarring, effortful task. Even if you’ve learned the rules very well, it’s hard to make the right decision when things are happening fast.”

The basis for cognitive flexibility.

The measures in this study include (fMRI) scanning, the structure and function of the brain and “graph signal processing”.


Brain signals alignment to the white matter network in the brain is associated with coginitive flexibility.