Clinical utility of the Neurobehavioral Symptom Inventory validity scales to screen for symptom exaggeration following traumatic brain injury

Rael T Lange, Tracey A Brickell, Sara M Lippa, Louis M French
Journal of Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology 2015, 37 (8): 853-62
The purpose of this study was to examine the clinical utility of three recently developed validity scales (Validity-10, NIM5, and LOW6) designed to screen for symptom exaggeration using the Neurobehavioral Symptom Inventory (NSI). Participants were 272 U.S. military service members who sustained a mild, moderate, severe, or penetrating traumatic brain injury (TBI) and who were evaluated by the neuropsychology service at Walter Reed Army Medical Center within 199 weeks post injury. Participants were divided into two groups based on the Negative Impression Management scale of the Personality Assessment Inventory: (a) those who failed symptom validity testing (SVT-fail; n = 27) and (b) those who passed symptom validity testing (SVT-pass; n = 245). Participants in the SVT-fail group had significantly higher scores (p<.001) on the Validity-10, NIM5, LOW6, NSI total, and Personality Assessment Inventory (PAI) clinical scales (range: d = 0.76 to 2.34). Similarly high sensitivity, specificity, positive predictive power (PPP), and negative predictive (NPP) values were found when using all three validity scales to differentiate SVT-fail versus SVT-pass groups. However, the Validity-10 scale consistently had the highest overall values. The optimal cutoff score for the Validity-10 scale to identify possible symptom exaggeration was ≥19 (sensitivity = .59, specificity = .89, PPP = .74, NPP = .80). For the majority of people, these findings provide support for the use of the Validity-10 scale as a screening tool for possible symptom exaggeration. When scores on the Validity-10 exceed the cutoff score, it is recommended that (a) researchers and clinicians do not interpret responses on the NSI, and (b) clinicians follow up with a more detailed evaluation, using well-validated symptom validity measures (e.g., Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory-2 Restructured Form, MMPI-2-RF, validity scales), to seek confirmatory evidence to support an hypothesis of symptom exaggeration.

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