An investigation of prospective memory functions in people with traumatic brain injury using Virtual Week

J Clin Exp Neuropsychol. 2013;35(6):617-30. doi: 10.1080/13803395.2013.804036. Epub 2013 Jun 4.


Prospective memory (PM) refers to memory for future intentions and is critically linked to independent living. Previous laboratory research has shown that people who have sustained a traumatic brain injury (TBI) have difficulties with PM, but few of these have used measures of PM that closely represent the types of PM activities that occur in everyday life. One measure that incorporates more ecologically valid tasks, and which also allows systematic investigation of different PM task parameters (regular, irregular, and event and time based), is Virtual Week. Consequently, in the present study, Virtual Week was administered to participants with TBI (n = 18) and demographically matched controls (n = 18). Consistent with considerable prior literature, the results indicated that people with TBI had significant difficulties executing PM tasks, with these deficits more pronounced for time-based than for event-based tasks. These data point to there being a relatively global PM deficit in people with TBI. Of particular interest was the finding that the magnitude of TBI impairment was consistent across regular and irregular tasks. Because the key distinction between these tasks is that they place low and high demands on retrospective memory, respectively, these data suggest that failures of retrospective memory are not the major cause of TBI-related impairment in PM. The implications of these results for the assessment and rehabilitation of PM impairment in people with TBI are discussed.

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living / psychology
  • Adult
  • Attention
  • Brain Injuries / diagnosis*
  • Brain Injuries / psychology*
  • Cognition Disorders / diagnosis
  • Cognition Disorders / psychology
  • Computer Simulation
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory, Episodic*
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuropsychological Tests*
  • User-Computer Interface*
  • Young Adult