Spacing of repetitions improves learning and memory after moderate and severe TBI

F. G. Hillary, M. T. Schultheis, B. H. Challis, S. R. Millis, G. J. Carnevale, T. Galshi, John DeLuca

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations


Extensive research has determined that new learning in healthy individuals is significantly improved when trials are distributed over time (spaced presentation) compared to consecutive learning trials (massed presentation). This phenomenon known as the "spacing effect" (SE) has been shown to enhance verbal and nonverbal learning in healthy adults of different ages and in different memory paradigms (e.g., recognition, recall, etc.). The purpose of this study was to examine whether learning in adults with moderate and severe traumatic brain injury (TBI) is improved using a spacing-of-repetitions procedure. Using a within-groups design, participants with TBI (n = 20) were presented a list of 115 words that were presented either once (single condition), twice consecutively (massed condition), or twice with 11 words between presentations (spaced condition). Participants were required to rank each word from 1 to 10 according to their familiarity with the word; they were not asked to "memorize" words for a later test. Word list learning was measured with a free recall test immediately following list presentation and with free recall and recognition tests after a 30-min delay. Participants recalled and recognized significantly more spaced words than massed words during this word list learning task. These results strongly indicate that the spacing of repetitions improves learning and memory in individuals who have sustained moderate to severe TBI. Implications for rehabilitation are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)49-58
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2003

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


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