Autobiographical and episodic memory deficits in mild traumatic brain injury

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Those who have suffered a concussion, otherwise known as a mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI), often complain of lingering memory problems. However, there is little evidence in the behavioral literature reliably demonstrating memory deficits. Thus, in the present study, cognitive profiles including measures of general executive functioning and processing speed, as well as episodic and semantic memory were collected in younger and older adult participants with or without a remote (>1 year prior to testing) mTBI. We first investigated whether there were observable episodic and autobiographical memory impairments associated with mTBI within an otherwise healthy young group. Next, because previous work had demonstrated some overlap in patterns of behavioral impairment in normally aging adults and younger adults with a history of mTBI (e.g. Ozen, Fernandes, Clark, & Roy, 2015), we sought to determine whether these groups displayed similar cognitive profiles. Lastly, we conducted an exploratory analysis to test whether having suffered an mTBI might exacerbate age-related cognitive decline. Results showed the expected age-related decline in episodic memory performance, coupled with a relative preservation of semantic memory in older adults. Importantly, this pattern was also present in younger adults with a history of remote mTBI. No differences were observed across older adult groups based on mTBI status. Logistic regression analyses, using each measure in our battery as a predictor, successfully classified mTBI status in younger participants with a high degree of specificity (79.5%). These results indicate that those who have had an mTBI demonstrate a distinct cognitive signature, characterized by impairment in episodic and autobiographical memory, coupled with a relative preservation of semantic memory.

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