Sleep and Word Learning Over Time in Adults with Moderate-Severe Traumatic Brain Injury


NIDCD 1F31DC019555-01; 01/2021-12/2022


Emily Morrow


Word learning relies heavily on memory systems and processes that are routinely impaired in traumatic brain injury (TBI) (e.g., the declarative memory system). The ability to learn new words and concepts is critical to a person’s potential to benefit from therapy or engage in academic, vocational, and interpersonal spheres. However, the nature and severity of word learning deficits in TBI are unknown. Examining word learning over time following TBI is particularly critical given advances in the cognitive neuroscience literature linking sleep to memory and learning in healthy individuals. Although approximately half of individuals with TBI report sleep disturbance, the role of sleep in learning following TBI has not been tested. The proposed study will be the first investigation of word learning over time after TBI and will break new ground in examining how sleep affects learning after injury. Our approach is novel to the field and bridges theories of psycholinguistics, cognitive neuroscience of memory, and rehabilitation in TBI. We combine well-established word learning protocols with the novel use of actigraphy as an objective measure of sleep. These findings will advance theoretical and clinical knowledge about sleep, memory, and learning in TBI and will directly contribute to our long-term goal of refining clinical management of learning deficits for improved functional outcomes after injury.