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See detailVolitional electromyographic responses in disorders of consciousness
Habbal, Dina; Gosseries, Olivia ULg; Noirhomme, Quentin ULg et al

in Brain Injury (2014)

The aim of the study was to validate the use of electromyography (EMG) for detecting responses to command in patients in vegetative state/unresponsive wakefulness syndrome (VS/UWS) or in minimally ... [more ▼]

The aim of the study was to validate the use of electromyography (EMG) for detecting responses to command in patients in vegetative state/unresponsive wakefulness syndrome (VS/UWS) or in minimally conscious state (MCS). Methods: Thirty-eight patients were included in the study (23 traumatic, 25 patients >1 year post-onset), 10 diagnosed as being in VS/UWS, eight in MCS- (no response to command) and 20 in MCS+ (response to command). Eighteen age-matched controls participated in the experiment. The paradigm consisted of three commands (i.e. 'Move your hands', 'Move your legs' and 'Clench your teeth') and one control sentence (i.e. 'It is a sunny day') presented in random order. Each auditory stimulus was repeated 4-times within one block with a stimulus-onset asynchrony of 30 seconds. Results: Post-hoc analyses with Bonferroni correction revealed that EMG activity was higher solely for the target command in one patient in permanent VS/UWS and in three patients in MCS+. Conclusion: The use of EMG could help clinicians to detect conscious patients who do not show any volitional response during standard behavioural assessments. However, further investigations should determine the sensitivity of EMG as compared to neuroimaging and electrophysiological assessments. [less ▲]

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See detailDiagnostic precision of PET imaging and functional MRI in disorders of consciousness: a clinical validation study
Stender, Johan; Gosseries, Olivia ULg; Bruno, Marie-Aurélie ULg et al

in Lancet Neurology (2014)

Background: Bedside clinical examinations can have high rates of misdiagnosis of unresponsive wakefulness syndrome (vegetative state) or minimally conscious state. The diagnostic and prognostic usefulness ... [more ▼]

Background: Bedside clinical examinations can have high rates of misdiagnosis of unresponsive wakefulness syndrome (vegetative state) or minimally conscious state. The diagnostic and prognostic usefulness of neuroimaging-based approaches has not been established in a clinical setting. We did a validation study of two neuroimaging-based diagnostic methods: PET imaging and functional MRI (fMRI). Methods: For this clinical validation study, we included patients referred to the University Hospital of Liège, Belgium, between January, 2008, and June, 2012, who were diagnosed by our unit with unresponsive wakefulness syndrome, locked-in syndrome, or minimally conscious state with traumatic or non-traumatic causes. We did repeated standardised clinical assessments with the Coma Recovery Scale—Revised (CRS—R), cerebral 18F-fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG) PET, and fMRI during mental activation tasks. We calculated the diagnostic accuracy of both imaging methods with CRS—R diagnosis as reference. We assessed outcome after 12 months with the Glasgow Outcome Scale—Extended. Findings: We included 41 patients with unresponsive wakefulness syndrome, four with locked-in syndrome, and 81 in a minimally conscious state (48=traumatic, 78=non-traumatic; 110=chronic, 16=subacute). 18F-FDG PET had high sensitivity for identification of patients in a minimally conscious state (93%, 95% CI 85—98) and high congruence (85%, 77—90) with behavioural CRS—R scores. The active fMRI method was less sensitive at diagnosis of a minimally conscious state (45%, 30—61) and had lower overall congruence with behavioural scores (63%, 51—73) than PET imaging. 18F-FDG PET correctly predicted outcome in 75 of 102 patients (74%, 64—81), and fMRI in 36 of 65 patients (56%, 43—67). 13 of 42 (32%) of the behaviourally unresponsive patients (ie, diagnosed as unresponsive with CRS—R) showed brain activity compatible with (minimal) consciousness (ie, activity associated with consciousness, but diminished compared with fully conscious individuals) on at least one neuroimaging test; 69% of these (9 of 13) patients subsequently recovered consciousness. Interpretation: Cerebral 18F-FDG PET could be used to complement bedside examinations and predict long-term recovery of patients with unresponsive wakefulness syndrome. Active fMRI might also be useful for differential diagnosis, but seems to be less accurate. Funding: The Belgian National Funds for Scientific Research (FNRS), Fonds Léon Fredericq, the European Commission, the James McDonnell Foundation, the Mind Science Foundation, the French Speaking Community Concerted Research Action, the University of Copenhagen, and the University of Liège. [less ▲]

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See detailEffect of zolpidem in chronic disorders of consciousness: a prospective open-label study.
Thonnard, Marie ULg; Gosseries, Olivia ULg; Demertzi, Athina ULg et al

in Functional Neurology (2014)

Zolpidem has been reported as an "awakening drug" in some patients with disorders of consciousness (DOC). We here present the results of a prospective openlabel study in chronic DOC patients. Sixty ... [more ▼]

Zolpidem has been reported as an "awakening drug" in some patients with disorders of consciousness (DOC). We here present the results of a prospective openlabel study in chronic DOC patients. Sixty patients (35±15 years; 18 females; mean time since insult ± SD: 4±5.5 years; 31 with traumatic etiology) with a diagnosis of vegetative state/unresponsive wakefulness syndrome (n=28) or minimally conscious state (n=32) were behaviorally assessed using the Coma Recovery Scale-Revised (CRS-R) before and one hour after administration of 10 mg of zolpidem. At the group level, the diagnosis did not change after intake of zolpidem (p=0.10) and CRS-R total scores decreased (p=0.01). Twelve patients (20%) showed improved behaviors and/or CRS-R total scores after zolpidem administration but in only one patient was the diagnosis after zolpidem intake found to show a significant improvement (functional object use), which suggested a change of diagnosis. However, in this patient, a double-blind placebo-controlled trial was performed in order to better specify the effects of zolpidem, but the patient, on this trial, failed to show any clinical improvements. The present open-label study therefore failed to show any clinically significant improvement (i.e., change of Effect of zolpidem in chronic disorders of consciousness: a prospective open-label study diagnosis) in any of the 60 studied chronic DOC patients. [less ▲]

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See detailAssessment of localisation to auditory stimulation in post-comatose states: Use the patient's own name
Cheng, L; Gosseries, Olivia ULg; Ying, L et al

in BMC Neurology (2013), Vol 13

Background: At present, there is no consensus on how to clinically assess localisation to sound in patients recovering from coma. We here studied auditory localisation using the patient's own name as ... [more ▼]

Background: At present, there is no consensus on how to clinically assess localisation to sound in patients recovering from coma. We here studied auditory localisation using the patient's own name as compared to a meaningless sound (i.e., ringing bell).Methods: Eighty-six post-comatose patients diagnosed with a vegetative state/unresponsive wakefulness syndrome or a minimally conscious state were prospectively included. Localisation of auditory stimulation (i.e., head or eyes orientation toward the sound) was assessed using the patient's own name as compared to a ringing bell. Statistical analyses used binomial testing with bonferroni correction for multiple comparisons.Results: 37 (43%) out of the 86 studied patients showed localisation to auditory stimulation. More patients (n=34, 40%) oriented the head or eyes to their own name as compared to sound (n=20, 23%; p<0.001).Conclusions: When assessing auditory function in disorders of consciousness, using the patient's own name is here shown to be more suitable to elicit a response as compared to neutral sound [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 detailA sensitive scale to assess nociceptive pain in patients with disorders of consciousness.
Chatelle, Camille ULg; Majerus, Steve ULg; Whyte, John et al

in Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry (2012), 83(12), 1233-7

OBJECTIVE: To determine the sensitivity of the Nociception Coma Scale (NCS), the first scale developed to assess nociceptive pain in vegetative state and minimally conscious state patients, in comparing ... [more ▼]

OBJECTIVE: To determine the sensitivity of the Nociception Coma Scale (NCS), the first scale developed to assess nociceptive pain in vegetative state and minimally conscious state patients, in comparing behavioural changes in response to noxious versus non-noxious stimulation. METHODS: The NCS was administered to assess patients' responses in three conditions: (1) baseline (observation of spontaneous behaviours), (2) non-noxious/tactile stimulation (taps on the patient's shoulder), and (3) noxious stimulation (pressure on the nail bed). RESULTS: We included 64 patients (27 vegetative state and 37 minimally conscious state; age range 20-82 years; 22 traumatic brain injury; 21 in the acute stage). The NCS total scores and subscores (motor, verbal and facial) were higher for the noxious versus the non-noxious stimulation conditions. We did not observe a difference between the non-noxious and the noxious stimulation conditions for the visual subscale. We also found a NCS cut-off value of 4 differentiating the patients receiving a noxious stimulation from patients receiving a non-noxious stimulation. The exclusion of the visual subscale increased the cut-off sensitivity (from 46% to 73%; specificity of 97% and accuracy of 85%). CONCLUSION: We propose a new version of the NCS excluding the visual subscale, the NCS-R, which constitutes a highly sensitive tool to assess responses to nociceptive pain in severely brain injured patients. [less ▲]

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See detailMetabolic activity in external and internal awareness networks in severely brain-damaged patients.
Thibaut, Aurore ULg; Bruno, Marie-Aurélie ULg; Chatelle, Camille ULg et al

in Journal of Rehabilitation Medicine (2012), 44(6), 487-94

OBJECTIVE: An extrinsic cerebral network (encompassing lateral frontoparietal cortices) related to external/sensory awareness and an intrinsic midline network related to internal/self-awareness have been ... [more ▼]

OBJECTIVE: An extrinsic cerebral network (encompassing lateral frontoparietal cortices) related to external/sensory awareness and an intrinsic midline network related to internal/self-awareness have been identified recently. This study measured brain metabolism in both networks in patients with severe brain damage. DESIGN: Prospective [18F]-fluorodeoxyglucose-positron emission tomography and Coma Recovery Scale-Revised assessments in a university hospital setting. SUBJECTS: Healthy volunteers and patients in vegetative state/unresponsive wakefulness syndrome (VS/UWS), minimally conscious state (MCS), emergence from MCS (EMCS), and locked-in syndrome (LIS). RESULTS: A total of 70 patients were included in the study: 24 VS/UWS, 28 MCS, 10 EMCS, 8 LIS and 39 age-matched controls. VS/UWS showed metabolic dysfunction in extrinsic and intrinsic networks and thalami. MCS showed dysfunction mostly in intrinsic network and thalami. EMCS showed impairment in posterior cingulate/retrosplenial cortices. LIS showed dysfunction only in infratentorial regions. Coma Recovery Scale-Revised total scores correlated with metabolic activity in both extrinsic and part of the intrinsic network and thalami. CONCLUSION: Progressive recovery of extrinsic and intrinsic awareness network activity was observed in severely brain-damaged patients, ranging from VS/UWS, MCS, EMCS to LIS. The predominance of intrinsic network impairment in MCS could reflect altered internal/self-awareness in these patients, which is difficult to quantify at the bedside. [less ▲]

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See detailThe ethics of managing disorders of consciousness
Demertzi, Athina ULg; Gosseries, Olivia ULg; Bruno, Marie-Aurélie ULg et al

in Schnakers, Caroline; Laureys, Steven (Eds.) Coma and disorders of consciousness (2012)

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See detailFunctional neuroanatomy underlying the clinical subcategorization of minimally conscious state patients.
Bruno, Marie-Aurélie ULg; Majerus, Steve ULg; Boly, Mélanie ULg et al

in Journal of Neurology (2012), 259(6), 1087-98

Patients in a minimally conscious state (MCS) show restricted signs of awareness but are unable to communicate. We assessed cerebral glucose metabolism in MCS patients and tested the hypothesis that this ... [more ▼]

Patients in a minimally conscious state (MCS) show restricted signs of awareness but are unable to communicate. We assessed cerebral glucose metabolism in MCS patients and tested the hypothesis that this entity can be subcategorized into MCS- (i.e., patients only showing nonreflex behavior such as visual pursuit, localization of noxious stimulation and/or contingent behavior) and MCS+ (i.e., patients showing command following).Patterns of cerebral glucose metabolism were studied using [(18)F]-fluorodeoxyglucose-PET in 39 healthy volunteers (aged 46 +/- 18 years) and 27 MCS patients of whom 13 were MCS- (aged 49 +/- 19 years; 4 traumatic; 21 +/- 23 months post injury) and 14 MCS+ (aged 43 +/- 19 years; 5 traumatic; 19 +/- 26 months post injury). Results were thresholded for significance at false discovery rate corrected p < 0.05.We observed a metabolic impairment in a bilateral subcortical (thalamus and caudate) and cortical (fronto-temporo-parietal) network in nontraumatic and traumatic MCS patients. Compared to MCS-, patients in MCS+ showed higher cerebral metabolism in left-sided cortical areas encompassing the language network, premotor, presupplementary motor, and sensorimotor cortices. A functional connectivity study showed that Broca's region was disconnected from the rest of the language network, mesiofrontal and cerebellar areas in MCS- as compared to MCS+ patients.The proposed subcategorization of MCS based on the presence or absence of command following showed a different functional neuroanatomy. MCS- is characterized by preserved right hemispheric cortical metabolism interpreted as evidence of residual sensory consciousness. MCS+ patients showed preserved metabolism and functional connectivity in language networks arguably reflecting some additional higher order or extended consciousness albeit devoid of clinical verbal or nonverbal expression. [less ▲]

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See detailBurnout in healthcare workers managing chronic patients with disorders of consciousness.
Gosseries, Olivia ULg; Demertzi, Athina ULg; Ledoux, Didier et al

in Brain Injury (2012)

Objectives: The aim of this study was to assess the presence of burnout among professional caregivers managing patients with severe brain injury recovering from coma and working in neurorehabilitation ... [more ▼]

Objectives: The aim of this study was to assess the presence of burnout among professional caregivers managing patients with severe brain injury recovering from coma and working in neurorehabilitation centres or nursing homes. Methods: The Maslach Burnout Inventory was sent to 40 centres involved in the Belgian federal network for the care of vegetative and minimally conscious patients. The following demographic data were also collected: age, gender, profession, expertise in the field, amount of time spent with patients and working place. Results: Out of 1068 questionnaires sent, 568 were collected (53% response rate). Forty-five were excluded due to missing data. From the 523 healthcare workers, 18% (n = 93) presented a burnout, 33% (n = 171) showed emotional exhaustion and 36% (n = 186) had a depersonalization. Profession (i.e. nurse/nursing assistants), working place (i.e. nursing home) and the amount of time spent with patients were associated with burnout. The logistic regression showed that profession was nevertheless the strongest variable linked to burnout. Conclusions: According to this study, a significant percentage of professional caregivers and particularly nurses taking care of patients in a vegetative state and in a minimally conscious state suffered from burnout. Prevention of burnout symptoms among caregivers is crucial and is expected to promote more efficient medical care of these challenging patients. [less ▲]

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See detailFeasibility of oral feeding in patients with disorders of consciousness
Maudoux, Audrey ULg; BREUSKIN, Ingrid ULg; Gosseries, Olivia ULg et al

in Schnakers, Caroline; Laureys, Steven (Eds.) Coma and Disorders of Consciousness (2012)

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See detailDésordres de la conscience : aspects éthiques.
Demertzi, Athina ULg; Gosseries, Olivia ULg; Bruno, Marie-Aurélie ULg et al

in Schnakers, Caroline; LAUREYS, Steven (Eds.) Comas et états de conscience altérée (2011)

L’apparition de la ventilation mécanique dans les années cinquante et le développement des soins intensifs dans les années soixante ont permis à de nombreux patients de survivre à de graves lésions ... [more ▼]

L’apparition de la ventilation mécanique dans les années cinquante et le développement des soins intensifs dans les années soixante ont permis à de nombreux patients de survivre à de graves lésions cérébrales. Bien que ces avancées technologiques soient étonnantes, de nombreux patients vont alors se retrouver dans des états cliniques critiques peu rencontrés auparavant (1). L’impact éthique de ces états d’inconscience se reflète lors de la rédaction des premiers comités de bioéthique et lors de l’apparition du concept d’acharnement thérapeutique. En 1968, le comité spécial de l’école médicale de Harvard a publié un article essentiel redéfinissant la mort comme étant un coma irréversible et une perte permanente de toutes les fonctions cérébrales (2). Le comité, composé de dix médecins, d’un théologien, d’un avocat et d’un historien des sciences, a débattu des questions médicales, juridiques et sociétales quant à la prise en charge des patients en mort cérébrale. Nous donnerons ici un bref aperçu des principales questions éthiques liées à la notion de conscience et à la prise en charge médicale des patients atteints de troubles de la conscience (TDC) tels que le coma, l’état végétatif et l’état de conscience minimale. Nous mettrons également l’accent sur le problème de la gestion de la douleur et des prises de décision en fin de vie. [less ▲]

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See detailAutomated EEG entropy measurements in coma, vegetative state/unresponsive wakefulness syndrome and minimally conscious state
Gosseries, Olivia ULg; Schnakers, Caroline ULg; LEDOUX, Didier ULg et al

in Functional Neurology (2011)

Monitoring the level of consciousness in brain injured patients with disorders of consciousness is crucial as it provides diagnostic and prognostic information. Behavioral assessment remains the gold ... [more ▼]

Monitoring the level of consciousness in brain injured patients with disorders of consciousness is crucial as it provides diagnostic and prognostic information. Behavioral assessment remains the gold standard for assessing consciousness but previous studies have shown a high rate of misdiagnosis. This study aimed to investigate the usefulness of electroencephalography (EEG) entropy measurements in differentiating unconscious (coma or vegetative) from minimally conscious patients. Left fronto-temporal EEG recordings (10-minute resting state epochs) were prospectively obtained in 56 patients and 16 age-matched healthy volunteers. Patients were assessed in the acute (≤1 month post-injury;n=29) or chronic (>1 month post-injury; n=27) stage. The etiology was traumatic in 23 patients. Automated online EEG entropy calculations (providing an arbitrary value ranging from 0 to 91) were compared with behavioral assessments (Coma Recovery Scale-Revised) and outcome. EEG entropy correlated with Coma Recovery Scale total scores (r=0.49). Mean EEG entropy values were higher in minimally conscious (73±19; mean and standard deviation) than in vegetative/unresponsive wakefulness syndrome patients (45±28). Receiver operating characteristic analysis revealed an entropy cut-off value of 52 differentiating acute unconscious from minimally conscious patients (sensitivity 89% and specificity 90%). In chronic patients, entropy measurements offered no reliable diagnostic information. EEG entropy measurements did not allow prediction of outcome. User-independent time-frequency balanced spectral EEG entropy measurements seem to constitute an interesting diagnostic – albeit not prognostic – tool for assessing neural network complexity in disorders of consciousness in the acute setting. Future studies are needed before using this tool in routine clinical practice, and these should seek to improve automated EEG quantification paradigms in order to reduce the remaining false negative and false positive findings. [less ▲]

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See detailNeural plasticity lessons from disorders of consciousness
Demertzi, Athina ULg; Schnakers, Caroline ULg; Soddu, Andrea ULg et al

in Frontiers in Psychology (2011), 1

Communication and intentional behavior are supported by the brain?s integrity at a structural and a functional level. When widespread loss of cerebral connectivity is brought about as a result of a severe ... [more ▼]

Communication and intentional behavior are supported by the brain?s integrity at a structural and a functional level. When widespread loss of cerebral connectivity is brought about as a result of a severe brain injury, in many cases patients are not capable of conscious interactive behavior and are said to suffer from disorders of consciousness (e.g., coma, vegetative state /unresponsive wakefulness syndrome, minimally conscious states). This lesion paradigm has offered not only clinical insights, as how to improve diagnosis, prognosis and treatment, but also put forward scientific opportunities to study the brain?s plastic abilities. We here review interventional and observational studies performed in severely brain-injured patients with regards to recovery of consciousness. The study of the recovered conscious brain (spontaneous and/or after surgical or pharmacologic interventions), suggests a link between some specific brain areas and the capacity of the brain to sustain conscious experience, challenging at the same time the notion of fixed temporal boundaries in rehabilitative processes. Altered functional connectivity, cerebral structural reorganization as well as behavioral amelioration after invasive treatments will be discussed as the main indices for plasticity in these challenging patients. The study of patients with chronic disorders of consciousness may, thus, provide further insights not only at a clinical level (i.e., medical management and rehabilitation) but also from a scientific-theoretical perspective (i.e., the brain?s plastic abilities and the pursuit of the neural correlate of consciousness). [less ▲]

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See detail"Relevance vector machine" consciousness classifier applied to cerebral metabolism of vegetative and locked-in patients.
Phillips, Christophe ULg; Bruno, Marie-Aurélie ULg; Maquet, Pierre ULg et al

in NeuroImage (2011), 56(2), 797808

The vegetative state is a devastating condition where patients awaken from their coma (i.e., open their eyes) but fail to show any behavioural sign of conscious awareness. Locked-in syndrome patients also ... [more ▼]

The vegetative state is a devastating condition where patients awaken from their coma (i.e., open their eyes) but fail to show any behavioural sign of conscious awareness. Locked-in syndrome patients also awaken from their coma and are unable to show any motor response to command (except for small eye movements or blinks) but recover full conscious awareness of self and environment. Bedside evaluation of residual cognitive function in coma survivors often is difficult because motor responses may be very limited or inconsistent. We here aimed to disentangle vegetative from "locked-in" patients by an automatic procedure based on machine learning using fluorodeoxyglucose PET data obtained in 37 healthy controls and in 13 patients in a vegetative state. Next, the trained machine was tested on brain scans obtained in 8 patients with locked-in syndrome. We used a sparse probabilistic Bayesian learning framework called "relevance vector machine" (RVM) to classify the scans. The trained RVM classifier, applied on an input scan, returns a probability value (p-value) of being in one class or the other, here being "conscious" or not. Training on the control and vegetative state groups was assessed with a leave-one-out cross-validation procedure, leading to 100% classification accuracy. When applied on the locked-in patients, all scans were classified as "conscious" with a mean p-value of .95 (min .85). In conclusion, even with this relatively limited data set, we could train a classifier distinguishing between normal consciousness (i.e., wakeful conscious awareness) and the vegetative state (i.e., wakeful unawareness). Cross-validation also indicated that the clinical classification and the one predicted by the automatic RVM classifier were in accordance. Moreover, when applied on a third group of "locked-in" consciously aware patients, they all had a strong probability of being similar to the normal controls, as expected. Therefore, RVM classification of cerebral metabolic images obtained in coma survivors could become a useful tool for the automated PET-based diagnosis of altered states of consciousness. [less ▲]

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See detailAttitudes towards end-of-life issues in disorders of consciousness : a European survey
Demertzi, Athina ULg; LEDOUX, Didier ULg; Bruno, Marie-Aurélie ULg et al

in Journal of Neurology (2011)

Previous European surveys showed the support of healthcare professionals for treatment withdrawal [i.e., artificial nutrition and hydration (ANH) in chronic vegetative state (VS) patients]. The recent ... [more ▼]

Previous European surveys showed the support of healthcare professionals for treatment withdrawal [i.e., artificial nutrition and hydration (ANH) in chronic vegetative state (VS) patients]. The recent definition of minimally conscious state (MCS), and possibly research advances (e.g., functional neuroimaging), may have lead to uncertainty regarding potential residual perception and may have influenced opinions of healthcare professionals. The aim of the study was to update the end-of-life attitudes towards VS and to determine the end-of-life attitudes towards MCS. A 16-item questionnaire related to consciousness, pain and end-of-life issues in chronic (i.e., >1 year) VS and MCS and locked-in syndrome was distributed among attendants of medical and scientific conferences around Europe (n = 59). During a lecture, the items were explained orally to the attendants who needed to provide written yes/no responses. Chi-square tests and logistic regression analyses identified differences and associations for age, European region, religiosity, profession, and gender. We here report data on items concerning end-of-life issues on chronic VS and MCS. Responses were collected from 2,475 participants. For chronic VS (>1 year), 66% of healthcare professionals agreed to withdraw treatment and 82% wished not to be kept alive (P < 0.001). For chronic MCS (>1 year), less attendants agreed to withdraw treatment (28%, P < 0.001) and wished not to be kept alive (67%, P < 0.001). MCS was considered worse than VS for the patients in 54% and for their families in 42% of the sample. Respondents’ opinions were associated with geographic region and religiosity. Our data show that end-of-life opinions differ for VS as compared to MCS. The introduction of the diagnostic criteria for MCS has not substantially changed the opinions on end-of-life issues on permanent VS. Additionally, the existing legal ambiguity around MCS may have influenced the audience to draw a line between expressing preferences for self versus others, by implicitly recognizing that the latter could be a step on the slippery slope to legalize euthanasia. Given the observed individual variability, we stress the importance of advance directives and identification of proxies when discussing end-of-life issues in patients with disorders of consciousness. [less ▲]

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See detailComparison of the Full Outline of UnResponsiveness and Glasgow Liege Scale/Glasgow Coma Scale in an Intensive Care Unit Population.
Bruno, Marie-Aurélie ULg; LEDOUX, Didier ULg; LAMBERMONT, Bernard ULg et al

in Neurocritical Care (2011), 15(3), 447-53

BACKGROUND: The Full Outline of UnResponsiveness (FOUR) has been proposed as an alternative for the Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS)/Glasgow Liege Scale (GLS) in the evaluation of consciousness in severely brain ... [more ▼]

BACKGROUND: The Full Outline of UnResponsiveness (FOUR) has been proposed as an alternative for the Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS)/Glasgow Liege Scale (GLS) in the evaluation of consciousness in severely brain-damaged patients. We compared the FOUR and GLS/GCS in intensive care unit patients who were admitted in a comatose state. METHODS: FOUR and GLS evaluations were performed in randomized order in 176 acutely (<1 month) brain-damaged patients. GLS scores were transformed in GCS scores by removing the GLS brainstem component. Inter-rater agreement was assessed in 20% of the studied population (N = 35). A logistic regression analysis adjusted for age, and etiology was performed to assess the link between the studied scores and the outcome 3 months after injury (N = 136). RESULTS: GLS/GCS verbal component was scored 1 in 146 patients, among these 131 were intubated. We found that the inter-rater reliability was good for the FOUR score, the GLS/GCS. FOUR, GLS/GCS total scores predicted functional outcome with and without adjustment for age and etiology. 71 patients were considered as being in a vegetative/unresponsive state based on the GLS/GCS. The FOUR score identified 8 of these 71 patients as being minimally conscious given that these patients showed visual pursuit. CONCLUSIONS: The FOUR score is a valid tool with good inter-rater reliability that is comparable to the GLS/GCS in predicting outcome. It offers the advantage to be performable in intubated patients and to identify non-verbal signs of consciousness by assessing visual pursuit, and hence minimal signs of consciousness (11% in this study), not assessed by GLS/GCS scales. [less ▲]

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See detailElectrophysiological correlates of behavioural changes in vigilance in vegetative state and minimally conscious state.
Landsness, Eric; Bruno, Marie-Aurélie ULg; Noirhomme, Quentin ULg et al

in Brain : A Journal of Neurology (2011), 134(Pt 8), 2222-32

The existence of normal sleep in patients in a vegetative state is still a matter of debate. Previous electrophysiological sleep studies in patients with disorders of consciousness did not differentiate ... [more ▼]

The existence of normal sleep in patients in a vegetative state is still a matter of debate. Previous electrophysiological sleep studies in patients with disorders of consciousness did not differentiate patients in a vegetative state from patients in a minimally conscious state. Using high-density electroencephalographic sleep recordings, 11 patients with disorders of consciousness (six in a minimally conscious state, five in a vegetative state) were studied to correlate the electrophysiological changes associated with sleep to behavioural changes in vigilance (sustained eye closure and muscle inactivity). All minimally conscious patients showed clear electroencephalographic changes associated with decreases in behavioural vigilance. In the five minimally conscious patients showing sustained behavioural sleep periods, we identified several electrophysiological characteristics typical of normal sleep. In particular, all minimally conscious patients showed an alternating non-rapid eye movement/rapid eye movement sleep pattern and a homoeostatic decline of electroencephalographic slow wave activity through the night. In contrast, for most patients in a vegetative state, while preserved behavioural sleep was observed, the electroencephalographic patterns remained virtually unchanged during periods with the eyes closed compared to periods of behavioural wakefulness (eyes open and muscle activity). No slow wave sleep or rapid eye movement sleep stages could be identified and no homoeostatic regulation of sleep-related slow wave activity was observed over the night-time period. In conclusion, we observed behavioural, but no electrophysiological, sleep wake patterns in patients in a vegetative state, while there were near-to-normal patterns of sleep in patients in a minimally conscious state. These results shed light on the relationship between sleep electrophysiology and the level of consciousness in severely brain-damaged patients. We suggest that the study of sleep and homoeostatic regulation of slow wave activity may provide a complementary tool for the assessment of brain function in minimally conscious state and vegetative state patients. [less ▲]

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See detailPreserved feedforward but impaired top-down processes in the vegetative state.
Boly, Mélanie ULg; Garrido, Marta Isabel; Gosseries, Olivia ULg et al

in Science (2011), 332(6031), 858-62

Frontoparietal cortex is involved in the explicit processing (awareness) of stimuli. Frontoparietal activation has also been found in studies of subliminal stimulus processing. We hypothesized that an ... [more ▼]

Frontoparietal cortex is involved in the explicit processing (awareness) of stimuli. Frontoparietal activation has also been found in studies of subliminal stimulus processing. We hypothesized that an impairment of top-down processes, involved in recurrent neuronal message-passing and the generation of long-latency electrophysiological responses, might provide a more reliable correlate of consciousness in severely brain-damaged patients, than frontoparietal responses. We measured effective connectivity during a mismatch negativity paradigm and found that the only significant difference between patients in a vegetative state and controls was an impairment of backward connectivity from frontal to temporal cortices. This result emphasizes the importance of top-down projections in recurrent processing that involve high-order associative cortices for conscious perception. [less ▲]

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See detailResponse to comment on "preserved feedforward but impaired top-down processes in the vegetative state".
Boly, Mélanie ULg; Garrido, Marta Isabel; Gosseries, Olivia ULg et al

in Science (2011), 334(6060), 1203

King et al. raise some technical issues about our recent study showing impaired top-down processes in the vegetative state. We welcome the opportunity to provide more details about our methods and results ... [more ▼]

King et al. raise some technical issues about our recent study showing impaired top-down processes in the vegetative state. We welcome the opportunity to provide more details about our methods and results and to resolve their concerns. We substantiate our interpretation of the results and provide a point-by-point response to the issues raised. [less ▲]

Detailed reference viewed: 26 (2 ULg)