New Brunswick

Concussions linked to long-term memory loss in Mount Allison study

A study by Mount Allison University psychology professor Jennifer Tomes and graduate student Nicole Barry has found a link between concussions and long-term memory loss.

Study by Jennifer Tomes and Nicole Barry also highlights needs for concussion prevention

Mount Allison University psychology professor Jennifer Tomes has published a study which shows there is a link between concussions and the quality of long-term memories. (Submitted by Mount Allison University)

A study from two Mount Allison University researchers suggests a link between concussions and long-term memory loss.

Jennifer Tomes, a psychology professor at Mount Allison University, and Nicole Barry, a former student, asked people who had suffered a concussion and fully recovered to share memories about themselves from the past year, from high school and from childhood.

"What we found was those who had had a concussion were able to recall the same number of memories but they described them differently," Tomes said.

"So they used fewer words and they used different words. Words that suggested they were less active in their recollection of the event. So they didn't seem to be as involved in remembering and re-experiencing the event."

This shows that the impact of a concussion can be much longer than most people may think.- Jennifer Tomes

Tomes said the fact that many details were missing suggests that having a concussion leads to a deficit in a person's ability to remember things.

"This shows that the impact of a concussion can be much longer than most people may think," she said.

Tomes said people often associate concussions with elite athletes but in fact many people suffer mild traumatic head injuries.

"Individuals can get concussions from a whole range of every day activities from car accidents to other minor accidents that are just associated with normal living," Tomes told Information Morning Moncton.

Study highlights need to prevent concussions

Tomes began her research into the long-term effects of concussions four years ago when she and Barry were discussing ideas for a topic for Barry's honours thesis.

Barry was a trainer with the university football team and had been treating players suffering from concussions.

Jennifer Tomes is a Mount Allison professor studying the long-term effects of concussions. 6:08

The two were "shocked" when they discovered how little research existed about the long-term consequences of mild traumatic brain injury.

"It is a brain injury. I didn't understand how there was no research or very little," Tomes said.

Their paper, entitled: Remembering your past: The effects of concussion on autobiographical memory recall, was published in the Journal of Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology in August.

Tomes hopes the research will help to predict what the consequences of concussions will be.

"It also highlights the importance of prevention. A lot of people sort of shake off concussions — that it's just a tiny injury … these are things that do need to be taken seriously and we ought to be careful to prevent as many of them as we can."

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