Forgetting to remember: Prospective memory and TBI

Doctor with Hand on Patient

Whether you promise to pick up milk after work, or you make doctor's appointment for the next day, a little post-it note forms in your mind to remind you of the task. And hopefully, that post-it note will signal you to remember that task at the right time. This process of remembering to remember is called prospective memory. And it's commonly impaired in people with traumatic brain injury.

Prospective memory impairment in mild traumatic brain injury has only recently been studied. The Journal of Neurotrauma published a study that suggests that people with mild traumatic brain injury show immediate problems with prospective memory, which persist even after 3 months.

Prospective memory is based on a complex system of cognitive process: intention, initiation, attention, appropriate sense of time, and proper recall of events. Given this complexity, prospective memory impairment (or forgetting to remember) can also be an indicator of general cognitive impairment in mild traumatic brain injury. The authors of the study suggest that prospective memory assessments, such as the Memory for Intentions Screening Test, could be used as a sensitive tool for diagnosing cognitive impairment in mild traumatic brain injury.

Tay SY, Ang BT, Lau, XY, et al. Chronic impairment of prospective memory after mild traumatic brain injury. Journal of Neurotrauma. (January 2010).