Using Testing to Improve Learning After Severe Traumatic Brain Injury

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Objective: Recent work in cognitive psychology suggests that testing can increase memory for both previously and subsequently studied information. Here we examined whether these beneficial (backward and forward) effects of testing generalize to individuals with severe traumatic brain injury (TBI). Method: Twenty-four persons with severe TBI, 12.7 years postinjury, and 12 healthy controls participated in the study. Participants studied three lists of items in anticipation of a final cumulative recall test. They were tested immediately between the study of lists or not. Results: Immediate testing of Lists 1 and 2 enhanced recall of both the previously studied information (Lists 1 and 2) and the subsequently studied information (List 3). The enhancement for the three lists arose for individuals with severe TBI and healthy controls, and did not differ in size between subject groups. Conclusion: The findings indicate that TBI persons show a very general benefit from testing, including both backward and forward effects of retrieval practice. Testing thus might be a powerful technique to improve learning and memory in persons with severe TBI.

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