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Working memory after severe traumatic brain injury

  • CLAIRE VALLAT-AZOUVI (a1) (a2) (a3), THOMAS WEBER (a1) (a4), LUDOVIC LEGRAND (a1) (a4) and PHILIPPE AZOUVI (a2) (a4) (a3)

The aim of the present study was to assess the functioning of the different subsystems of working memory after severe traumatic brain injury (TBI). A total of 30 patients with severe chronic TBI and 28 controls received a comprehensive assessment of working memory addressing the phonological loop (forward and backward digit span; word length and phonological similarity effects), the visuospatial sketchpad (forward and backward visual spans), and the central executive (tasks requiring simultaneous storage and processing of information, dual-task processing, working memory updating). Results showed that there were only marginal group differences regarding the functioning of the two slave systems, whereas patients with severe TBI performed significantly poorer than controls on most central executive tasks, particularly on those requiring a high level of controlled processing. These results suggest that severe TBI is associated with an impairment of executive aspects of working memory. The anatomic substrate of this impairment remains to be elucidated. It might be related to a defective activation of a distributed network, including the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. (JINS, 2007, 13, 770–780.)

Corresponding author
Correspondence and reprint requests to: Philippe Azouvi, Service de Médecine Physique et de Réadaptation, Hôpital Raymond Poincaré, Garches, 92380 France. E-mail:
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