BACKGROUND: Intimate couples can become cognitively interdependent over time. If one member of the couple has a neurological condition with associated cognitive impairments, their partner can support or 'scaffold' their cognitive functioning through collaboration. OBJECTIVE: We explored the phenomenon of 'collaborative memory' in a case series of 9 couples in which one member had a neurological condition, specifically an acquired brain injury (ABI; n=7) or epilepsy (n=2). METHODS: To investigate collaborative memory, we compared the performance of the patient when remembering alone versus their performance in collaboration with their partner on three memory tasks, assessing anterograde, semantic, and autobiographical memory. RESULTS: We found that across all tasks and participants, collaboration typically increased overall memory performance (total score), but the patient's contribution to the task was typically lower when they collaborated compared with when they performed the task alone. We identified two distinct styles of collaboration which we termed 'survival scaffolding' (where the healthy partner 'takes over' memory recall) and 'stability scaffolding' (where the healthy partner cues and structures the patient's recall). CONCLUSION: This exploratory case series contributes to the sparse literature on memory collaboration in people with neurological conditions. Our findings suggest that there are different styles of collaboration that can both help and hinder memory performance.
- acquired brain injury