Brief report| Volume 96, ISSUE 4, P742-745, April 2015

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Retrieval Practice as an Effective Memory Strategy in Children and Adolescents With Traumatic Brain Injury

Published:October 10, 2014DOI:


      • Pediatric traumatic brain injury (TBI) often leads to learning and memory problems.
      • Retrieval practice is a promising learning intervention for pediatric TBI patients.
      • Randomized controlled trials of retrieval practice after TBI are the next step.



      To investigate whether retrieval practice (RP) is a more effective memory strategy than restudy in children and adolescents with traumatic brain injury (TBI).


      Three × two within-subjects experiment: 3 (learning condition: massed restudy [MR], spaced restudy [SR], retrieval practice [RP]) × 2 (stimulus type: verbal paired associates [VPAs] and face-name pairs [FNPs]). The dependent measure was delayed recall of VPAs and FNPs.


      Subacute pediatric neurorehabilitation center.


      Pediatric survivors of TBI (N=15) aged 8 to 16 years with below-average memory.


      During RP, participants were quizzed on to-be-learned information (VPAs and FNPs) shortly after it was presented, such that they practiced retrieval during the learning phase. MR consisted of repeated restudy (tantamount to cramming). SR consisted of restudy trials separated in time (ie, distributed learning).

      Main Outcome Measures

      Delayed recall of 24 VPAs and 24 FNPs after a 25-minute delay. VPAs and FNPs were equally divided across 3 learning conditions (16 per condition).


      There was a large main effect of learning condition on delayed recall (P<.001; ηp2=.84), with better mean recall of VPAs and FNPs studied through RP (6.23±1.39) relative to MR (3.60±1.53; P<.001) and SR (4.77±1.39; P<.001). Moreover, RP was the single best learning strategy for every participant.


      Memory problems and related academic learning difficulties are common after pediatric TBI. Herein, we identify RP as a promising and simple strategy to support learning and improve memory in children and adolescents with TBI. Our experimental findings were quite robust and set the stage for subsequent randomized controlled trials of RP in pediatric TBI.


      List of abbreviations:

      FNP (face-name pair), MR (massed restudy), RP (retrieval practice), SR (spaced restudy), TBI (traumatic brain injury), VPA (verbal paired associate)
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