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Res Dev Disabil. 2013 Oct;34(10):3190-6. doi: 10.1016/j.ridd.2013.06.021. Epub 2013 Jul 24.

Post-coma persons emerging from a minimally conscious state with multiple disabilities make technology-aided phone contacts with relevant partners.

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University of Bari, Italy. Electronic address:


Post-coma individuals emerging from a minimally conscious state with multiple disabilities may enjoy contact with relevant partners (e.g., family members and friends), but may not have easy access to them. These two single-case studies assessed whether those individuals could make contact with partners through computer-aided telephone technology and enjoy such contact. The technology involved a computer system with special software, a global system for mobile communication modem (GSM), and microswitch devices. In Study I, the computer system presented a 23-year-old man the names of the partners that he could contact, one at a time, automatically. Together with each partner's name, the system also presented the voice of the partner asking the man whether he wanted to call him or her. The man could (a) place a call to that partner by activating a camera-based microswitch through mouth movements or (b) bypass that partner and wait for the next one to be presented. In Study II, the system presented a 36-year-old man the partners' names only after he had activated his wobble microswitch with a hand movement. The man could place a call or bypass a partner as in Study I. The results showed that both men (a) were able to contact relevant partners through the technology, (b) seemed to enjoy their telephone-mediated communication contacts with the partners, and (c) showed preferences among the partners. Implications of the findings are discussed.


Computer-aided telephone technology; Emergence from minimal consciousness; Multiple disabilities; Phone calls

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