Direct and Indirect Memory Measures of Temporal Order and Spatial Location: Control versus Closed-Head Injury Participants

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The goal of the study was to compare control participants and participants with closed-head injury (CHI) on direct and indirect memory measures of temporal order and spatial location.


Twenty-seven CHI patients and 27 control participants were tested on “item” (i.e., words) and “contextual” (temporal order and spatial location) information. Contextual information was tested directly and indirectly by means of a format in which lists of words were presented repeatedly eight times in fixed or varying order for the temporal task and in a fixed or varying spatial position for the spatial task. The number of words recalled as well as their temporal and spatial judgment were the direct measure of item and contextual memory, respectively. The effect of the consistency of order or location was the indirect measure of contextual memory.


As expected, the CHI group was impaired on the direct measures of item memory. Also as expected, the groups did not differ in the indirect memory measures of contextual information. Contrary to predictions, however, the groups did not differ in the direct measure of contextual information.


Item memory, when measured directly, is impaired in CHI patients. The finding that the groups did not differ on the direct measure of contextual information is possibly due to ceiling-level performance of the control group. Contextual information seems to be preserved in CHI patients when measured indirectly.

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