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You Learn Something New Every Day – Or Do You?
4th Satellite Symposium on Neuropsychological Rehabilitation, San Sebastian, July 2007
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The ability to learn and remember how to perform new, multi-stage tasks is essential to developing and maintaining essential life skills, whether learning to use an electronic memory aid or the correct sequence for personal care activities. It is generally accepted that even some densely amnesic individuals retain intact procedural learning, even if there is no recollection of the process of learning. Our aim was to develop a novel task that would assess the ability to learn new information. It would be a valuable addition to the Rivermead Behavioural Memory Test (RBMT) that was being updated. The criteria for the test were:- to be original, to have six stages, to be manageable with either motor or language problems, to be compact, low cost and have two parallel forms. We chose a six piece ‘Star/Square’ assembly task, based on a geometric theorem. There were three learning trials and one delayed. We looked at 80 neurologically impaired people with TBI, Stroke, Encephalitis or Dementia, (some with severe memory problems), and how they compared with healthy controls. The subjects also completed the new version of the RBMT and other neuropsychological tests. The controls all learned the test within the three trials, but many of the neurologically impaired group showed impairment related to the severity of their condition and the aetiology. It is a quick, reliable test to indicate whether people with memory problems still have the capacity to learn, for example, how to use a memory aid. References: Wilson BA, Baddeley AD, Cockburn JM. (1989) Cortex. How do old dogs learn new tricks. 25, 115-119. Wilson BA, Cockburn JM, Baddeley AD. (1985) The Rivermead Behavioural Memory Test, Thames Valley Test Company, Harcourt Assessment.