Retrieval practice improves memory in multiple sclerosis: Clinical application of the testing effect

James F. Sumowski, Nancy Chiaravalloti, John DeLuca

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

54 Scopus citations


The testing effect is a robust cognitive phenomenon by which memory retrieval on a test improves subsequent recall more than restudying. Also known as retrieval practice, the testing effect has been studied almost exclusively in healthy undergraduates. The current study investigated whether retrieval practice during testing leads to better delayed recall than restudy among persons with multiple sclerosis (MS), a neurologic disease associated with memory dysfunction. In a within-subjects design, 32 persons with MS and 16 demographically matched healthy controls (HC) studied 48 verbal paired associates (VPA) divided across 3 learning conditions: massed restudy (MR), spaced restudy (SR), and spaced testing (ST). Delayed VPA cued recall was measured after 45 min. There was a large main effect of learning condition (ηp2 = .54, p < .001) such that both MS and HC participants produced better delayed recall for VPAs learned through ST relative to MR and SR; and SR relative to MR. This same pattern was observed for MS participants with objective memory impairment (n = 16), thereby providing the first evidence that retrieval practice improves memory more than restudy among persons with neurologically based memory impairment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)267-272
Number of pages6
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Cognitive rehabilitation
  • Memory
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Retrieval practice
  • Spaced retrieval


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