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See detailCharacteristics of Near-Death Experiences Memories as Compared to Real and Imagined Events Memories
Thonnard, Marie ULg; Charland-Verville, Vanessa ULg; Brédart, Serge ULg et al

in PLoS ONE (2013), 8(3),

Since the dawn of time, Near-Death Experiences (NDEs) have intrigued and, nowadays, are still not fully explained. Since reports of NDEs are proposed to be imagined events, and since memories of imagined ... [more ▼]

Since the dawn of time, Near-Death Experiences (NDEs) have intrigued and, nowadays, are still not fully explained. Since reports of NDEs are proposed to be imagined events, and since memories of imagined event have, on average, fewer phenomenological characteristics than real events memories, we here compared phenomenological characteristics of NDEs reports with memories of imagined and real events. We included three groups of coma survivors (8 patients with NDE as defined by the Greyson NDE scale, 6 patients without NDE but with memory of their coma, 7 patients without memories of their coma) and a group of 18 age-matched healthy volunteers. Five types of memories were assessed using Memory Characteristics Questionnaire (MCQ – Johnson et al., 1988): target memory (NDE for NDE memory group, coma memory for coma memory group, and first childhood memory for no memory and control groups), old and recent real event memories and old and recent imagined event memories. Since NDEs are known to have high emotional content, participants were requested to choose the most emotionally salient memories for both real and imagined recent and old event memories. Results showed that, in NDE memories group, NDE memories have more characteristics than memories of imagined and real events (p<0.02). NDE memories contain more self-referential and emotional information and have better clarity than memories of coma (all p<0.02). The present study showed that NDE memories contain more characteristics than real event memories and coma memories. Thus, this suggests that they cannot be considered as imagined event memories. On the contrary, their physiological origins could lead them to be really perceived although not lived in the reality. Further work is needed to better understand this phenomenon. [less ▲]

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See detailActigraphy assessments of circadian sleep-wake cycles in the Vegetative and Minimally Conscious States
Cruse, Damian; Thibaut, Aurore ULg; Demertzi, Athina ULg et al

in BMC Neuroscience (2013), 11(18),

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See detailDisorders of consciousness and neuroimaging techniques
Charland-Verville, Vanessa ULg; Demertzi, Athina ULg; VANHAUDENHUYSE, Audrey ULg et al

Scientific conference (2013, January)

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See detailLooking for the self in pathological unconsciousness.
Demertzi, Athina ULg; Vanhaudenhuyse, Audrey ULg; Brédart, Serge ULg et al

in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience (2013), 7

There is an intimate relationship between consciousness and the notion of self. By studying patients with disorders of consciousness, we are offered with a unique lesion approach to tackle the neural ... [more ▼]

There is an intimate relationship between consciousness and the notion of self. By studying patients with disorders of consciousness, we are offered with a unique lesion approach to tackle the neural correlates of self in the absence of subjective reports. Studies employing neuroimaging techniques point to the critical involvement of midline anterior and posterior cortices in response to the passive presentation of self-referential stimuli, such as the patient’s own name and own face. Also, resting state studies show that these midline regions are severely impaired as a function of the level of consciousness. Theoretical frameworks combining all this progress surpass the functional localization of self-related cognition and suggest a dynamic system-level approach to the phenomenological complexity of subjectivity. Importantly for non-communicating patients suffering from disorders of consciousness, the clinical translation of these technologies will allow medical professionals and families to better comprehend these disorders and plan efficient medical management for these patients. [less ▲]

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See detailA multiscale method for a robust detection of the default mode network.
Baquero, Katherine; Gómez, Francisco; Cifuentes, Christian et al

Poster (2013)

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See detailAltered network properties of the fronto-parietal network and the thalamus in impaired consciousness
Crone, Julia Sophia; Soddu, Andrea ULg; Höller, Yvonne et al

in NeuroImage: Clinical (2013)

Recovery of consciousness has been associated with connectivity in the frontal cortex and parietal regions modulated by the thalamus. To examine this model and to relate alterations to deficits in ... [more ▼]

Recovery of consciousness has been associated with connectivity in the frontal cortex and parietal regions modulated by the thalamus. To examine this model and to relate alterations to deficits in cognitive functioning and conscious processing, we investigated topological network properties in patients with chronic disorders of consciousness recovered from coma. Resting state fMRI data of 34 patients with unresponsive wakefulness syndrome and 25 in minimally conscious state were compared to 28 healthy controls.We investigated global and local network characteristics. Additionally, behavioralmeasureswere correlatedwith the localmetrics of 28 regionswithin the fronto-parietal network and the thalamus. In chronic disorders of consciousness, modularity at the global level was reduced suggesting a disturbance in the optimal balance between segregation and integration.Moreover, network properties were altered in several regionswhich are associatedwith conscious processing (particularly, inmedial parietal, and frontal regions, aswell as in the thalamus). Between minimally conscious and unconscious patients the local efficiency of medial parietal regions differed. Alterations in the thalamus were particularly evident in non-conscious patients.Most of the regions affected in patientswith impaired consciousness belong to the so-called ‘rich club’ of highly interconnected central nodes. Disturbances in their topological characteristics have severe impact on information integration and are reflected in deficits in cognitive functioning probably leading to a total breakdown of consciousness. [less ▲]

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See detailThalamus, Brainstem and Salience Network Connectivity Changes During Propofol-Induced Sedation and Unconsciousness
Guldenmund, Justus Pieter ULg; Demertzi, Athina ULg; BOVEROUX, Pierre ULg et al

in Brain connectivity (2013), 3

In this functional magnetic resonance imaging study, we examined the effect of mild propofol sedation and propofol-induced unconsciousness on resting state brain connectivity, using graph analysis based ... [more ▼]

In this functional magnetic resonance imaging study, we examined the effect of mild propofol sedation and propofol-induced unconsciousness on resting state brain connectivity, using graph analysis based on independent component analysis and a classical seed-based analysis. Contrary to previous propofol research, which mainly emphasized the importance of connectivity in the default mode network (DMN) and external control network (ECN), we focused on the salience network, thalamus, and brainstem. The importance of these brain regions in brain arousal and organization merits a more detailed examination of their connectivity response to propofol. We found that the salience network disintegrated during propofol-induced unconsciousness. The thalamus decreased connectivity with the DMN, ECN, and salience network, while increasing connectivity with sensorimotor and auditory/insular cortices. Brainstem regions disconnected from the DMN with unconsciousness, while the pontine tegmental area increased connectivity with the insulae during mild sedation. These findings illustrate that loss of consciousness is associated with a wide variety of decreases and increases of both cortical and subcortical connectivity. It furthermore stresses the necessity of also examining resting state connectivity in networks representing arousal, not only those associated with awareness. [less ▲]

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See detailProbing command following in patients with disorders of consciousness using a brain-computer interface.
Lule, Dorothee; Noirhomme, Quentin ULg; Kleih, Sonja C. et al

in Clinical Neurophysiology (2013), 124(1), 101-6

OBJECTIVE: To determine if brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) could serve as supportive tools for detecting consciousness in patients with disorders of consciousness by detecting response to command and ... [more ▼]

OBJECTIVE: To determine if brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) could serve as supportive tools for detecting consciousness in patients with disorders of consciousness by detecting response to command and communication. METHODS: We tested a 4-choice auditory oddball EEG-BCI paradigm on 16 healthy subjects and 18 patients in a vegetative state/unresponsive wakefulness syndrome, in a minimally conscious state (MCS), and in locked-in syndrome (LIS). Subjects were exposed to 4 training trials and 10 -12 questions. RESULTS: Thirteen healthy subjects and one LIS patient were able to communicate using the BCI. Four of those did not present with a P3. One MCS patient showed command following with the BCI while no behavioral response could be detected at bedside. All other patients did not show any response to command and could not communicate with the BCI. CONCLUSION: The present study provides evidence that EEG based BCI can detect command following in patients with altered states of consciousness and functional communication in patients with locked-in syndrome. However, BCI approaches have to be simplified to increase sensitivity. SIGNIFICANCE: For some patients without any clinical sign of consciousness, a BCI might bear the potential to employ a "yes-no" spelling device offering the hope of functional interactive communication. [less ▲]

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See detailPain perception in disorders of consciousness: neuroscience, clinical care, and ethics in dialogue
Demertzi, Athina ULg; Racine, Eric; Bruno, Marie-Aurélie ULg et al

in Neuroethics (2013), 6(1), 37-50

Pain, suffering and positive emotions in patients in vegetative state/unresponsive wakefulness syndrome (VS/UWS) and minimally conscious states (MCS) pose clinical and ethical challenges. Clinically, we ... [more ▼]

Pain, suffering and positive emotions in patients in vegetative state/unresponsive wakefulness syndrome (VS/UWS) and minimally conscious states (MCS) pose clinical and ethical challenges. Clinically, we evaluate behavioural responses after painful stimulation and also emotionally-contingent behaviours (e.g., smiling). Using stimuli with emotional valence, neuroimaging and electrophysiology technologies can detect subclinical remnants of preserved capacities for pain which might influence decisions about treatment limitation. To date, no data exist as to how healthcare providers think about end-of-life options (e.g., withdrawal of artificial nutrition and hydration) in the presence or absence of pain in non-communicative patients. Here, we aimed to better clarify this issue by re-analyzing previously published data on pain perception (Prog Brain Res 2009 177, 329–38) and end-of-life decisions (J Neurol 2010 258, 1058–65) in patients with disorders of consciousness. In a sample of 2259 European healthcare professionals we found that, for VS/UWS more respondents agreed with treatment withdrawal when they considered that VS/UWS patients did not feel pain (77%) as compared to those who thought VS/UWS did feel pain (59%). This interaction was influenced by religiosity and professional background. For MCS, end-of-life attitudes were not influenced by opinions on pain perception. Within a contemporary ethical context we discuss (1) the evolving scientific understandings of pain perception and their relationship to existing clinical and ethical guidelines; (2) the discrepancies of attitudes within (and between) healthcare providers and their consequences for treatment approaches, and (3) the implicit but complex relationship between pain perception and attitudes toward life-sustaining treatments. [less ▲]

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See detailDetecting Consciousness with a Brain-computer Interface
Noirhomme, Quentin ULg; Lesenfants, Damien ULg; Lehembre, Remy ULg et al

in Pons, J. L.; Torricelli, D.; Pajaro, M. (Eds.) Converging Clinical and Engineering Research on Neurorehabilitation (2012, November)

Recent electrophysiological and neuroimaging studies showed command-specific changes in EEG or fMRI signals of unresponsive patients providing motor-independent evidence of conscious thoughts. These ... [more ▼]

Recent electrophysiological and neuroimaging studies showed command-specific changes in EEG or fMRI signals of unresponsive patients providing motor-independent evidence of conscious thoughts. These promising results have paved the way for a new application for Brain-computer Interface (BCI): detecting consciousness in patients with disorders of consciousness (DOC). In the present abstract, we review the first results obtained by BCI-like applications in patients with DOC and discuss the challenges facing BCI research. We believe that patients with DOC may benefit from BCI based diagnosis. BCIs may detect changes in the signal in response to command and, in some cases, may permit communication. [less ▲]

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See detailMemories of Near-Death experiences are they memories of imagined events?
Thonnard, Marie ULg; Charland-Verville, Vanessa ULg; Brédart, Serge ULg et al

Poster (2012, October 27)

Background: The phenomenon of Near-Death Experiences (NDEs) has always intrigued but is still not fully explained despite numerous theories and studies. Since reports of NDEs are proposed to be imagined ... [more ▼]

Background: The phenomenon of Near-Death Experiences (NDEs) has always intrigued but is still not fully explained despite numerous theories and studies. Since reports of NDEs are proposed to be imagined events (French, 2001), and since memories of imagined events have, on average, fewer phenomenological characteristics than real event memories (e.g. Johnson et al., 1988), we here compared phenomenological characteristics of NDEs reports with memories of imagined and real events. Methods: We included 3 groups of coma survivors (8 patients with NDE as defined by the Greyson NDE scale – the “NDE memory group”- , 6 patients without NDE but with memory of their coma – the “coma memory group” – and 7 patients without memories of their coma – the “no memory group”) and a group of 18 age-matched healthy volunteers. Five memories were assessed using Memory Characteristics Questionnaire (MCQ – Johnson et al., 1988): target memory (NDE for NDE memory group, coma memory for coma memory group, and first childhood memory for no memory and control groups), old and recent real event memories and old and recent imagined event memories. Results: In NDE group, NDE memories showd more characteristics than memories of imagined and real events (p<0.02). These memories contain more self-referential and emotional information and have better clarity than memories of coma (all p<0.02). Conclusion: The present study showed that NDE memories contain more characteristics than real event memories and coma memories. Thus, they cannot be considered as classic imagined event memories. On the contrary, their physiological origins could lead them to be really perceived although not lived in the reality. Further work is needed to better understand this phenomenon [less ▲]

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See detailAuditory Resting-State Network Connectivity in Tinnitus: a Functionnal MRI Study.
MAUDOUX, Audrey ULg; LEFEBVRE, Philippe ULg; CABAY, Jean-Evrard ULg et al

in PLoS ONE (2012)

The underlying functional neuroanatomy of tinnitus remains poorly understood. Few studies have focused on functional cerebral connectivity changes in tinnitus patients. The aim of this study was to test ... [more ▼]

The underlying functional neuroanatomy of tinnitus remains poorly understood. Few studies have focused on functional cerebral connectivity changes in tinnitus patients. The aim of this study was to test if functional MRI ‘‘resting-state’’ connectivity patterns in auditory network differ between tinnitus patients and normal controls. Thirteen chronic tinnitus subjects and fifteen age-matched healthy controls were studied on a 3 tesla MRI. Connectivity was investigated using independent component analysis and an automated component selection approach taking into account the spatial and temporal properties of each component. Connectivity in extra-auditory regions such as brainstem, basal ganglia/NAc, cerebellum, parahippocampal, right prefrontal, parietal, and sensorimotor areas was found to be increased in tinnitus subjects. The right primary auditory cortex, left prefrontal, left fusiform gyrus, and bilateral occipital regions showed a decreased connectivity in tinnitus. These results show that there is a modification of cortical and subcortical functional connectivity in tinnitus encompassing attentional, mnemonic, and emotional networks. Our data corroborate the hypothesized implication of non-auditory regions in tinnitus physiopathology and suggest that various regions of the brain seem involved in the persistent awareness of the phenomenon as well as in the development of the associated distress. leading to disabling chronic tinnitus. [less ▲]

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See detailPain perception in disorders of consciousness: Neuroscience, clinical care, and ethics in dialogue
Demertzi, Athina ULg; Racine, Eric; Bruno, Marie-Aurélie ULg et al

in Neuroethics (2012)

Pain, suffering and positive emotions in patients in vegetative state/unresponsive wakefulness syndrome (VS/UWS) and minimally conscious states (MCS) pose clinical and ethical challenges. Clinically, we ... [more ▼]

Pain, suffering and positive emotions in patients in vegetative state/unresponsive wakefulness syndrome (VS/UWS) and minimally conscious states (MCS) pose clinical and ethical challenges. Clinically, we evaluate behavioural responses after painful stimulation and also emotionally-contingent behaviours (e.g., smiling). Using stimuli with emotional valence, neuroimaging and electrophysiology technologies can detect subclinical remnants of preserved capacities for pain which might influence decisions about treatment limitation. To date, no data exist as to how healthcare providers think about end-of-life options (e.g., withdrawal of artificial nutrition and hydration) in the presence or absence of pain in non-communicative patients. Here, we aimed to better clarify this issue by re-analyzing previously published data on pain perception (Prog Brain Res 2009 177, 329–38) and end-of-life decisions (J Neurol 2010 258, 1058–65) in patients with disorders of consciousness. In a sample of 2259 European healthcare professionals we found that, for VS/UWS more respondents agreed with treatment withdrawal when they considered that VS/UWS patients did not feel pain (77%) as compared to those who thought VS/UWS did feel pain (59%). This interaction was influenced by religiosity and professional background. For MCS, end-of-life attitudes were not influenced by opinions on pain perception. Within a contemporary ethical context we discuss (1) the evolving scientific understandings of pain perception and their relationship to existing clinical and ethical guidelines; (2) the discrepancies of attitudes within (and between) healthcare providers and their consequences for treatment approaches, and (3) the implicit but complex relationship between pain perception and attitudes toward life-sustaining treatments. [less ▲]

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See detailDiffusion Tensor Imaging to Predict Long-term Outcome after Cardiac Arrest: A Bicentric Pilot Study.
Luyt, Charles-Edouard; Galanaud, Damien; Perlbarg, Vincent et al

in Anesthesiology (2012), 117(6), 1311-1321

BACKGROUND: Prognostication in comatose survivors of cardiac arrest is a major clinical challenge. The authors' objective was to determine whether an assessment with diffusion tensor imaging, a brain ... [more ▼]

BACKGROUND: Prognostication in comatose survivors of cardiac arrest is a major clinical challenge. The authors' objective was to determine whether an assessment with diffusion tensor imaging, a brain magnetic resonance imaging sequence, increases the accuracy of 1 yr functional outcome prediction in cardiac arrest survivors. METHODS:: Prospective, observational study in two intensive care units. Fifty-seven comatose survivors of cardiac arrest underwent brain magnetic resonance imaging. Fractional anisotropy (FA), a diffusion tensor imaging value, was measured in predefined white matter regions, and apparent diffusion coefficient was assessed in predefined grey matter regions. Prediction of unfavorable outcome at 1 yr was compared using four prognostic models: FA global, FA selected, apparent diffusion coefficient, and clinical classifiers. RESULTS:: Of the 57 patients included in the study, 49 had an unfavorable outcome at 12 months. Areas under the receiver operating characteristic curve (95% CI) to predict unfavorable outcome for the FA global, FA selected, clinical, and apparent diffusion coefficient models were 0.92 (0.82-0.98), 0.96 (0.87-0.99), 0.78 (0.65-0.88), and 0.86 (0.74-0.94), respectively. The FA selected model had the best overall accuracy for predicting outcome, with a score above 0.44 having 94% (95% CI, 83-99%) sensitivity and 100% (95% CI, 63-100%) specificity for the prediction of unfavorable outcome. CONCLUSION:: Quantitative diffusion tensor imaging indicates that white matter damage is widespread after cardiac arrest. A prognostic model based on FA values in selected white matter tracts seems to predict accurately 1 yr functional outcome. These preliminary results need to be confirmed in a larger population. [less ▲]

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See detailResting state networks and consciousness Alterations of multiple resting state network connectivity in physiological, pharmacological and pathological consciousness states
Heine, Lizette ULg; Soddu, Andrea ULg; Gomez Jaramillo, Francisco Albeiro ULg et al

in Frontiers in Psychology (2012), 3

In order to better understand the functional contribution of resting state activity to conscious cognition, we aimed to review increases and decreases in fMRI functional connectivity under physiological ... [more ▼]

In order to better understand the functional contribution of resting state activity to conscious cognition, we aimed to review increases and decreases in fMRI functional connectivity under physiological (sleep), pharmacological (anesthesia) and pathological altered states of consciousness, such as brain death, coma, vegetative state/unresponsive wakefulness syndrome, and minimally conscious state. The reviewed RSNs were the DMN, left and right executive control, salience, sensorimotor, auditory and visual networks. We highlight some methodological issues concerning resting state analyses in severely injured brains mainly in terms of hypothesis-driven seed-based correlation analysis and data-driven independent components analysis approaches. Finally, we attempt to contextualize our discussion within theoretical frameworks of conscious processes. We think that this “lesion” approach allows us to better determine the necessary conditions under which normal conscious cognition takes place. At the clinical level, we acknowledge the technical merits of the resting state paradigm. Indeed, fast and easy acquisitions are preferable to activation paradigms in clinical populations. Finally, we emphasize the need to validate the diagnostic and prognostic value of fMRI resting state measurements in non-communicating brain damaged patients. [less ▲]

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See detailPropofol induced unconsciousness: fMRI total neuronal activity and resting state networks.
Gantner, Ithabi; Guldenmund, Justus Pieter ULg; Gómez, Francisco et al

Poster (2012)

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See detailA default mode of brain function in altered states of consciousness.
Guldenmund, Justus Pieter; Vanhaudenhuyse, Audrey ULg; Boly, Mélanie ULg et al

in Archives Italiennes de Biologie (2012), 150(2-3), 107-21

Using modern brain imaging techniques, new discoveries are being made concerning the spontaneous activity of the brain when it is devoid of attention-demanding tasks. Spatially separated patches of ... [more ▼]

Using modern brain imaging techniques, new discoveries are being made concerning the spontaneous activity of the brain when it is devoid of attention-demanding tasks. Spatially separated patches of neuronal assemblies have been found to show synchronized oscillatory activity behavior and are said to be functionally connected. One of the most robust of these is the default mode network, which is associated with intrinsic processes like mind wandering and self-projection. Furthermore, activity in this network is anticorrelated with activity in a network that is linked to attention to external stimuli. The integrity of both networks is disturbed in altered states of consciousness, like sleep, general anesthesia and hypnosis. In coma and related disorders of consciousness, encompassing the vegetative state (unresponsive wakefulness syndrome) and minimally conscious state, default mode network integrity correlates with the level of remaining consciousness, offering the possibility of using this information for diagnostic and prognostic purposes. Functional brain imaging is currently being validated as a valuable addition to the standardized behavioral assessments that are already in use. [less ▲]

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See detailAssessment of White Matter Injury and Outcome in Severe Brain Trauma: A Prospective Multicenter Cohort
Galanaud, Damien; Perlbarg, Vincent; Gupta, Rajiv et al

in Anesthesiology (2012), 117(6), 1300-1310

BACKGROUND:: Existing methods to predict recovery after severe traumatic brain injury lack accuracy. The aim of this study is to determine the prognostic value of quantitative diffusion tensor imaging ... [more ▼]

BACKGROUND:: Existing methods to predict recovery after severe traumatic brain injury lack accuracy. The aim of this study is to determine the prognostic value of quantitative diffusion tensor imaging (DTI). METHODS:: In a multicenter study, the authors prospectively enrolled 105 patients who remained comatose at least 7 days after traumatic brain injury. Patients underwent brain magnetic resonance imaging, including DTI in 20 preselected white matter tracts. Patients were evaluated at 1 yr with a modified Glasgow Outcome Scale. A composite DTI score was constructed for outcome prognostication on this training database and then validated on an independent database (n = 38). DTI score was compared with the International Mission for Prognosis and Analysis of Clinical Trials Score. RESULTS:: Using the DTI score for prediction of unfavorable outcome on the training database, the area under the receiver operating characteristic curve was 0.84 (95% CI: 0.75-0.91). The DTI score had a sensitivity of 64% and a specificity of 95% for the prediction of unfavorable outcome. On the validation-independent database, the area under the receiver operating characteristic curve was 0.80 (95% CI: 0.54-0.94). On the training database, reclassification methods showed significant improvement of classification accuracy (P < 0.05) compared with the International Mission for Prognosis and Analysis of Clinical Trials score. Similar results were observed on the validation database. CONCLUSIONS:: White matter assessment with quantitative DTI increases the accuracy of long-term outcome prediction compared with the available clinical/radiographic prognostic score. [less ▲]

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