Traumatic brain injury and prospective memory: Influence of task complexity

Julie Diane Henry, Louise Helen Phillips, John Robertson Crawford, Matthias Kliegel, Georgia Theodorou, Fiona Summers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Citations (Scopus)


A quantitative review indicated that prospective memory impairment is a consistent feature of traumatic brain injury (TBI). However, evidence also suggests that manipulations that increase demands on controlled attentional processes moderate the magnitude of observed deficits. A total of 16 TBI participants were compared with 15 matched controls on a task in which the number of prospective target events was manipulated. This manipulation was of interest because two competing models make different predictions as to its effect on controlled attentional processes. In the context of Smith and Bayen's (2004) preparatory attentional processes and memory processes (PAM) model increasing the number of target events should increase requirements for controlled attentional processing. In contrast, McDaniel and Einstein's (2000) multiprocess framework assumes that distinct target events presented in focal awareness of the processing activities required for the ongoing task are likely to depend on automatic processes. This latter model therefore leads to the prediction that increasing the number of target events should not increase demands upon controlled attentional processes. Consistent with McDaniel and Einstein's (2000) multiprocess framework, TBI patients were significantly and comparably impaired on the one- and the four-target-event conditions relative to controls. Further, TBI deficits could not be attributed to increased difficulty with the retrospective component of the prospective memory task. The practical and theoretical implications of these results are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)457-466
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2007


  • verbal fluency performance
  • closed-head injury
  • event
  • intentions
  • retrieval
  • deficits
  • cue
  • age


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