Relationships between time estimation, memory, attention, and processing speed in patients with severe traumatic brain injury

Severine Perbal, Josette Couillet, Philippe Azouvi, Viviane Pouthas
Neuropsychologia 2003, 41 (12): 1599-610
The present experiment was aimed at investigating the effects of memory and attention deficits and of information processing slowing on time estimation in patients with severe traumatic brain injury (TBI). Patients with TBI and normal control subjects reproduced and produced durations (5, 14, 38s) in both a control counting condition and in a concurrent reading condition. They also performed finger-tapping tasks at a free rate and at a 1s rate. Both groups were assessed on processing speed using a reaction-time task, and on memory and attention using a battery of neuropsychological tests. The results showed that time estimation was not less accurate in patients with TBI than in control subjects on the reproduction task or on the production task performed either in the control counting condition or in the concurrent reading condition. Conversely, duration judgments were more variable in patients with TBI than in control subjects on both tasks in both conditions. The results also showed that TBI patients exhibited slower reaction-times, and poorer working and episodic memory scores than control subjects. Most importantly, the variability index in the duration reproduction task was related to both working memory scores and processing speed measures, whereas the variability index in the duration production task was only related with the processing speed measures. The temporal performance pattern in TBI patients does not appear to reflect specific deficits in timing, but rather overall problems in attention, working memory, and processing speed mechanisms.

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