Despite the publication of a number of books and chapters on neuropsychological and cognitive rehabilitation in the past 15 or 20 years, there have been relatively few books published that have focused specifically on the topic of memory rehabilitation (mostly including Harrell, Parenté, Bellingrath, & Lisicia, 1992; Parenté & Anderson-Parenté, 1991; Wilson, 1987; Wilson & Moffat, 1992). Neuropsychologist Barbara Wilson's new book on memory rehabilitation addresses this notable gap and provides a concise but up-to-date review of the topic for neuropsychologists, clinical psychologists, and other professionals dealing with the improvement of memory functioning in individuals with various types of memory disorders.
Impairments of memory are among the most frequent problems about which persons with neurological dysfunction complain, in spite of the fact that memory is a very complex process which is difficult to improve in any population. Memory impairments are probably the most commonly treated neuropsychological disorders in comprehensive brain rehabilitation programs, and neuropsychologists are often called upon to provide detailed assessment of the characteristics, nature, prognosis, and treatment needs of such disorders. In this book, Wilson provides a succinct overview of the many effective strategies and methods that assist individuals with memory disorders to improve their everyday functioning and quality of life.
The bulk of Wilson's book consists of 10 content chapters about the underpinnings of memory dysfunction (Chapter 1), aspects of its assessment (Chapter 3), recovery (Chapter 2), and treatment (Chapters 4–10), and a final summary (Chapter 11) that covers final thoughts, principles of good rehabilitation practice, and reminder overviews of each of the previous chapters (repetition as a remedial strategy is not covered in the book, but apparently the author feels that reinforcement of the content with these summaries enhances the reader's own recall). An Appendix provides international resources for memory improvement including a list of websites that provide memory aids, and societies offering advice and information for individuals around the world. Elizabeth Glisky adds a Foreword in which she correctly lauds the present book's focus on integrating theory and practice, as a follow-up to Wilson's now-dated previous book on the same topic (Wilson, 1987).
Indeed, Barbara Wilson emphasizes throughout the book the integration of knowledge about the nature of memory dysfunction with rehabilitative methods that have efficacy in daily life and clinical practice. She particularly examines and reviews the evidence for each type of memory intervention and explains in practical detail many of the methods for teaching people to cope with and compensate for their memory problems and associated psychoemotional difficulties. The initial chapters (1–3) provide a foundational understanding of the various types and conditions of memory with a simple review of neuroanatomical mechanisms, the various perspectives taken when considering memory recovery processes, and memory assessment questions and approaches. The latter chapter particularly emphasizes behavioral assessment procedures for identifying memory problems, and—although it discusses more traditional neuropsychometric memory assessment measures—it particularly includes more detailed discussion of one of Wilson's own test batteries, the Rivermead Behavioural Memory Test, as an example of the way in which ecologically valid measures can be initially obtained.
Chapters 4 through 9 are really the core of the book, with each chapter providing slightly more detailed discussion of compensatory memory methods using memory aids (with the assistance of Narinder Kapur), mnemonics and rehearsal strategies, new learning methods such as errorless learning, spaced retrieval, and vanishing cues, structuring and practice of memory groups, related treatment of the emotional and mood disorders associated with memory impairment, and goal setting and evaluation of the effectiveness of memory rehabilitation. In all of these chapters, Wilson reviews the rationale for each method, theoretical underpinnings of the method, the research supporting the efficacy of the method, presumed mechanisms about how the method works, and clinical practice considerations. In many if not most chapters, Wilson uses examples from her professional experience and that of her colleagues at the Rivermead Rehabilitation and the Oliver Zangwill Centres in the United Kingdom to illustrate specific principles concerning the various methods. Chapter 10, “Putting it all together,” is a very valuable and pertinent exposition of the planning, development, and implementation of a memory rehabilitation program, but with only a brief discussion of the important topics of generalization or transfer of learning, which are topics that deserve greater emphasis. The final chapter (11) briefly discusses six principles of good rehabilitation practice, considers whether rehabilitation actually improves one's quality of life, and has a far-too-limited presentation of how a practitioner may combine theory and practice in a broader model of cognitive rehabilitation. The book relies heavily on Wilson's own approach to neuropsychology and rehabilitation, which tends to be behaviorally oriented, although she advocates a model that recognizes the multiplicity of approaches and models needed (p. 191). Unfortunately, her limited presentation of the crucial issue of combining theory and practice in this section of the book is quite weak in comparison with the other chapters.
Memory Rehabilitation is an excellent introductory book on the topic, particularly for professionals who typically do not deal directly with rehabilitation of cognitive problems. The book has many strong points that will make it a desired resource for professionals wishing to develop and implement empirically derived memory rehabilitation programs. It provides a concise overview of behavioral approaches to a variety of specific memory rehabilitation strategies and techniques. Among the beneficial features in the book is a repetitive focus on cognitive and learning theory as applied in such rehabilitation. Wilson also does an excellent job discussing why such behavioral approaches are beneficial to individuals with memory difficulties and in presenting current supporting research. Wilson's chapter with Kapur on compensatory memory aids is both practical and illustrative of the types of technological assistance that is currently available to assist individuals with particularly severe memory impairments; future technology such as smart homes and virtual reality are also discussed briefly. Diagnostically oriented neuropsychologists—who often are not well versed in such knowledge—will particularly benefit from the discussion of “new learning” techniques in Chapter 6, including errorless learning, spaced retrieval, and vanishing cues protocols.
There are a few relative weaknesses to Wilson's book, with needed aspects that neuropsychologists may desire covered in future editions of the book. The book makes much information about memory functioning and improvement accessible to readers, but additional case examples of each technique would particularly demonstrate the integration of theory and practice in a meaningful way. There is no discussion of pediatric memory disorders or developmentally based rehabilitation methods in the book, so pediatric neuropsychologists will need to look elsewhere for developmentally sensitive treatments. Wilson includes only limited information about neuroanatomical and etiological aspects of memory disorders, and her emphasis on behavioral techniques sometimes minimizes the presentation of potentially useful information concerning the interactions between the etiology of memory impairment (e.g., traumatic brain injury vs. stroke) and recommended memory remediation methods (compensatory vs. restorative approaches). The relationship between memory rehabilitation and cognitive rehabilitation of other neuropsychological impairments is not always well-described. Other important less-covered or missing topics include prospective and semantic memory training, the setup of a comprehensive memory disorders clinic (vs. a compensatory memory aids clinic, which is covered), the relationships between memory impairments and executive dysfunction, and international and regional funding issues in rehabilitation. Although Wilson focuses on “nonprogressive memory disorders,” she inconsistently includes many examples of memory rehabilitation in individuals with dementing conditions and often discusses “the amnestic syndrome” as if it were a unitary phenomenon.
Barbara Wilson's book on memory rehabilitation is not a fully comprehensive book on the topic, but it is close. It serves to provide a readable understanding of rehabilitative methods that can be practically beneficial to individuals with memory disorders, and most importantly, it provides the neuropsychologist and rehabilitation professional with the theory behind the practice. Integrating information from Wilson's volume on memory rehabilitation with other recent cognitive and neuropsychological rehabilitation literature will immeasurably enhance the effectiveness of treatment delivery to individuals with a variety of cognitive deficits.