Scientists find the cause of memory problems after brain injuries

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A recent study delves into the challenges faced by individuals with acquired brain injuries (ABI) when it comes to memory recall, shedding light on the crucial role of processing speed in memory function.

Gerald Voelbel, an associate professor of occupational therapy at NYU Steinhardt and the senior author of the study, emphasizes the big cognitive disruptions that impede memory recall in people living with chronic brain injuries.

Acquired brain injuries, unlike congenital brain injuries or those caused by diseases, occur after birth and impact a significant number of individuals.

Over half of those affected by ABI report struggling with memory deficits, highlighting the need for a deeper understanding of the underlying cognitive processes.

The study, published in the journal Brain Injury, engaged 63 participants with ABI, ranging in age from 18 to 70.

Through a series of tasks designed to assess various cognitive functions—including processing speed, working memory, visual memory, and verbal memory—the researchers aimed to pinpoint the factors most affecting immediate and delayed memory recall.

One specific task challenged participants to memorize a list of 15 words displayed on a monitor and then identify these words from a mixed list including both the original words and additional distractor words.

This exercise was repeated after 30 minutes to assess delayed recall ability. A similar task was conducted with colored figures instead of words to gauge memory across different contexts.

The findings of this comprehensive study highlight the pivotal role of processing speed in memory function.

Unlike working memory, which pertains to the short-term storage and manipulation of information, processing speed—the rate at which the brain processes incoming information—was identified as a significant predictor of both delayed verbal recall and overall memory performance.

This insight has profound implications for the development of cognitive rehabilitation strategies aimed at improving the lives of those with ABI.

Voelbel suggests that focusing on enhancing processing speed could be key to improving memory capabilities and, by extension, the overall quality of life for individuals affected by chronic acquired brain injuries.

This approach marks a pivotal shift towards targeted cognitive rehabilitation techniques that address the specific challenges faced by this population.

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For more information about brain health, please see recent studies about common exercises that could protect against cognitive decline, and results showing that this MIND diet may protect your cognitive function, prevent dementia.

The research findings can be found in Brain Injury.

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