Research Reports - Autobiographical memory and episodic future thinking after moderate to severe traumatic brain injury

J Neuropsychol. 2012 Dec 17

Rasmussen KW, Berntsen D

Converging evidence suggests that autobiographical memory and episodic future
thinking share a common neurocognitive basis. Although previous research has
shown that traumatic brain injury (TBI) can impair the ability to remember the
personal past, episodic future thinking has not previously been systematically
examined within this population. In this study, we examined the ability to
remember events in the personal past and the ability to imagine possible events
in the personal future in a sample of moderate-to-severe TBI patients. We present
data on nine patients and nine healthy controls, who were asked to report a
series of events that had happened to them in the past and a series of events
that might happen to them in the future. Transcriptions were scored according to
a reliable system for categorizing internal (episodic) and external (semantic)
information. For each event described, participants also completed two modified
Autobiographical Memory Questionnaire items to assess self-reported phenomenal
qualities associated with remembering and imagining. In addition, TBI patients
underwent neuropsychological assessment. Results revealed that TBI patients
recalled/imagined proportionally fewer episodic event-specific details for both
past and future events compared to healthy controls (η(2) (p) = 0.78). In
contrast, there were no group differences in ratings of phenomenal
characteristics. These results are discussed in relation to theories suggesting
that remembering and imagining the future are the expression of the same
underlying neurocognitive system.

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