Research Reports - Imagining the future in children with severe traumatic brain injury

Journal of Neurotrauma
Published Online:22 Mar 2018

Prof. Suncica Lah; Ms. Chloe GottDr. Adrienne EppsMs. Louise Parry

Objectives: Imagining the future events is thought to rely on re-combination and integration of past episodic memory traces into future events. Future and past events contain episodic and non-episodic details. Children with severe traumatic brain injury (TBI) were found to have impaired recall of past episodic (but not semantic) event details. Here we examined whether severe TBI impairs construction of future events.
Design: Cross-sectional.
Methods: Children with severe TBI (n = 14) and healthy controls (NC; n = 33) (i) completed tests of anterograde (narrative and relational) memory and executive skills, (ii) recalled past events and generated future events, and (iii) rated events’ phenomenological qualities. Events were scored for episodic (internal) and non-episodic (external) details.
Results: The groups did not differ in generating details of future events although children with TBI recalled significantly fewer past internal (but not external) events’ details relative to NCs. Moreover, the number of past internal details relative to future internal details was significantly higher in the NC group, but not in the TBI groups. Significant correlations between past and future were found for (i) episodic details in both groups, and (ii) semantic details in the NC group. The TBI group rated their events as being less significant than did the NC group. The groups did not differ on ratings of visual intensity and rehearsal.
Conclusions: Children who have sustained severe TBI had impoverished recall of past, but not generation of future events. This unexpected dissociation between past and future event construction requires further research.

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