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Handb Clin Neurol. 2015;127:195-204. doi: 10.1016/B978-0-444-52892-6.00013-1.

Acute loss of consciousness.

Author information

Department of Psychology, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK.
Department of Neurology, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, SC, USA.
Institute of Cognitive Neurology (INECO), Buenos Aires, Argentina; UDP-INECO Foundation Core on Neuroscience (UIFCoN), Diego Portales University, Santiago, Chile; Institute of Neuroscience, Favaloro University, Buenos Aires, Argentina. Electronic address:


Acute loss of consciousness poses a fascinating scenario for theoretical and clinical research. This chapter introduces a simple yet powerful framework to investigate altered states of consciousness. We then explore the different disorders of consciousness that result from acute brain injury, and techniques used in the acute phase to predict clinical outcome in different patient populations in light of models of acute loss of consciousness. We further delve into post-traumatic amnesia as a model for predicting cognitive sequels following acute loss of consciousness. We approach the study of acute loss of consciousness from a theoretical and clinical perspective to conclude that clinicians in acute care centers must incorporate new measurements and techniques besides the classic coma scales in order to assess their patients with loss of consciousness.


Loss of consciousness; amnesia; disorders of consciousness; traumatic brain injury

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