The clinical evaluation of consciousness in disorder of consciousness (DOC) patients based on their exhibited behavior is difficult and remains erroneous in many cases. Recent studies demonstrated different levels of stimulus processing as well as evidence of some level of awareness in sub-groups of these patients. The aim of the current study was to examine the plausibility and challenges of implementing a clinical service for evaluation of consciousness level in DOC patients.
Eleven Patients (ages 11–67) diagnosed as being in vegetative or minimal conscious states were included. Functional MRI evaluations included auditory, language, voice familiarity, imagery, and visual tests.
In 9 patients auditory-related activation was found, however only in 5 of the subjects was differential activation found for language. Six patients exhibited differential response to their own name. In three patients a response to visual stimuli was identified. In one patient the auditory and linguistic systems were clearly activated in a hierarchical pattern, and moreover willful modulation of brain activity was identified in the imagery test.
We discuss the importance of using a wide battery of tests, the difference between our clinical cohort and previous publications, as well as the challenges of clinically implementing this method. Translating novel imaging methods into the clinical evaluation of DOC patients is essential for better diagnosis and may encourage treatment development.
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Published online: September 05, 2013
Accepted: August 7, 2013
Received: July 22, 2013
© 2013 Elsevier B.V. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.