Effects of Concussion on a New Measure of Verbal Learning and Memory in Collegiate Athletes

Archives of Clinical Neuropsychology -


Meyer, J., G. Vargas, A. Rabinowitz, F. Barwick and P. Arnett.



Objective: Verbal learning has been shown to be sensitive to the effects of sports-related concussion. In this study, we examined a new measure of verbal learning, the Affective Word List (AWL), which we have previously shown to be sensitive to depression in collegiate athletes (Ramanathan et al., 2012). The task involves the recall of eight affectively positive and eight affectively negative words. Athletes who differentially recall affectively negative versus positive words on the task are more likely to report clinically significant depression. It would be useful to have a performance-based verbal learning measure that is sensitive to both the affective and cognitive consequences of concussion. Method: Forty-two participants were included from a university-based sports concussion program. Change in performance from baseline to post-concussion was evaluated for the AWL, using 1 SD as the metric for clinically significant decline, and compared with two existing measures of memory commonly used in the context of sports-related concussion. Results: A comparable percentage of athletes showed a clinically significant decline on immediate recall for the AWL (30.5%) compared with immediate recall from the HVLT-R (25.0%) and the ImPACT Verbal Learning Composite Score (36.4%). Conclusion: Our findings suggest that the AWL is comparably sensitive to the cognitive effects of concussion as existing measures of verbal learning and memory. It has the advantage over such verbal learning measures of also being sensitive to depression in collegiate athletes. Future work using reliable change scores and other measures of change to evaluate post-concussion decline on the AWL will be illuminating.

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