Association learning in the acute confusional state

J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry. 1998 Sep;65(3):390-2. doi: 10.1136/jnnp.65.3.390.


The usefulness of cognitive rehabilitative treatment in the acute stages after brain injury seems questionable because patients in severe acute confusional state early after coma clinically seem unable to learn and store new information. Therefore, the capability of patients in acute confusional state to learn and retain associative information was assessed. On two occasions pairs of simple nouns were presented to six patients in severe acute confusional state. Stimuli were presented repeatedly either in written form only or with additional pictorial representations. Immediate and 20 minutes delayed recall was measured. Patients in acute confusional state were able to learn progressively more word pairs across several presentations. They retained some information over an interval of 20 minutes. In addition, they learned and remembered pictorially supported associations better than pure verbal associations. Patients in severe acute confusional state may retain some explicit information and may profit from an imagery mnemonic aid. These results were not expected on the basis of clinical findings alone and they have potential implications for the care of patients in acute confusional state.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain Concussion / psychology
  • Brain Concussion / rehabilitation
  • Brain Damage, Chronic / psychology*
  • Brain Damage, Chronic / rehabilitation
  • Coma / psychology*
  • Coma / rehabilitation
  • Confusion / psychology*
  • Confusion / rehabilitation
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory, Short-Term*
  • Middle Aged
  • Paired-Associate Learning*
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual
  • Reading
  • Retention, Psychology*
  • Subarachnoid Hemorrhage / psychology
  • Subarachnoid Hemorrhage / rehabilitation