UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology


'Consciousness connections' revealed in coma brains

20 May 2011

A new test of consciousness which could be helpful in the diagnosis of coma patients has been identified in new research led by scientists from the University of Liège and a team from the Wellcome Department of Imaging Neuroscience

Recent studies have shown that patients with severe brain damage who show little outward signs of perception or understanding may have a certain degree of pain experience and awareness. New methods of measuring awareness could help doctors better predict the likelihood of recovery and give families an indication on whether their loved one is aware of their presence.

In the study, published today in the journal Science, the team measured the electrical response to auditory stimulation by means of high-density electroencephalography (EEG). Using a sophisticated mathematical model they identified a neural signature of consciousness in healthy volunteers and in patients with "minimal consciousness" but not in unresponsive so-called "vegetative" patients. The study helps unravel how subjective consciousness arises from the physical activity of trillions of brain connections.

The University of Liège researchers, led by Dr. Melanie Boly and Dr. Steven Laureys, worked with Professor Karl Friston, Dr. Marta Garrido, and Dr. Vladimir Litvak at UCL on the development of mathematical models to identify the activated cerebral network and its "consciousness connections".

read more >>  Wellcome Trust Centre for NeuroimagingUniversity of Liège | Science | UCL News