Temporal order memory impairments in individuals with moderate-severe traumatic brain injury

Michael R. Dulas, Emily L. Morrow, Hillary Schwarb, Neal J. Cohen, Melissa C. Duff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction: Temporal order memory is a core cognitive function that underlies much of our behavior. The ability to bind together information within and across events, and to reconstruct that sequence of information, critically relies upon the hippocampal relational memory system. Recent work has suggested traumatic brain injury (TBI) may particularly impact hippocampally mediated relational memory. However, it is currently unclear whether such deficits extend to temporal order memory, and whether deficits only arise at large memory loads. The present study assessed temporal order memory in individuals with chronic, moderate-severe TBI across multiple set sizes. Method: Individuals with TBI and Neurotypical Comparison participants studied sequences of three to nine objects, one a time. At test, all items were re-presented in pseudorandom order, and participants indicated the temporal position (i.e., first, second, etc.) in which each object had appeared. Critically, we assessed both the frequency and the magnitude of errors (i.e., how far from its studied position was an item remembered). Results: Individuals with TBI were not impaired for the smallest set size, but showed significant impairments at 5+ items. Group differences in the error frequency did not increase further with larger set sizes, but group differences in error magnitude did increase with larger memory loads. Individuals with TBI showed spared performance for the first object of each list (primacy) but were impaired on the last object (recency), though error frequency was better for last compared to middle items. Conclusions: Our findings demonstrate that TBI results in impaired temporal order memory for lists as small as five items, and that impairments are exacerbated with increasing memory loads. Assessments that test only small set sizes may be insufficient to detect these deficits. Further, these data highlight the importance of additional, sensitive measures in the assessment of cognitive impairments in TBI.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)210-225
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2022


  • Traumatic brain injury
  • assessment
  • hippocampus
  • relational memory
  • temporal memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Neurology
  • Clinical Psychology


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