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Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2013 Sep;37(8):1403-19. doi: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2013.05.004. Epub 2013 May 13.

Finding a way in: a review and practical evaluation of fMRI and EEG for detection and assessment in disorders of consciousness.

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McMaster Integrative Neuroscience Discovery and Study (MiNDS), McMaster University, 1280 Main St. W., Hamilton, Ontario, Canada L8S 4L8.


Diagnoses and assessments of cognitive function in disorders of consciousness (DOC) are notoriously prone to error due to their reliance on behavioural measures. As a result, researchers have turned to functional neuroimaging and electrophysiological techniques with the goal of developing more effective methods of detecting awareness and assessing cognition in these patients. This article reviews functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and electroenchphalography (EEG)-based studies of cognition and consciousness in DOC, including assessment of basic sensory, perceptual, language, and emotional processing; studies for detection of conscious awareness; paradigms for the establishment of communication in the absence of behaviour; and functional connectivity studies. The advantages and limitations of fMRI and EEG-based measures are examined as research and clinical tools in this population and an explanation offered for the rediscovery of the unique advantages of EEG in the study of DOC.


Cognition; Consciousness; Disorders of consciousness; Electroencephalography (EEG); Event-related potentials (ERP); Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI); Minimally conscious state; Unresponsive wakefulness syndrome; Vegetative state

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