[en] PURPOSE OF REVIEW: Brain MRI (diffusion tensor imaging and spectroscopy) and functional neuroimaging (PET, functional MRI, EEG and evoked potential studies) are changing our understanding of patients with disorders of consciousness encountered after coma such as the 'vegetative' or minimally conscious states. RECENT FINDINGS: Increasing evidence from functional neuroimaging and electrophysiology demonstrates some residual cognitive processing in a subgroup of patients who clinically fail to show any response to commands, leading to the recent proposal of 'unresponsive wakefulness syndrome' as an alternative name for patients previously coined 'vegetative' or 'apallic'. SUMMARY: Consciousness can be viewed as the emergent property of the collective behavior of widespread thalamocortical frontoparietal network connectivity. Data from physiological, pharmacological and pathological alterations of consciousness provide evidence in favor of this hypothesis. Increasing our understanding of the neural correlates of consciousness is helping clinicians to do a better job in terms of diagnosis, prognosis and finally treatment and drug development for these severely brain-damaged patients. The current challenge remains to continue translating this research from the bench to the bedside. Only well controlled large multicentric neuroimaging and electrophysiology studies will enable to identify which paraclinical diagnostic or prognostic test is necessary for our routine evidence-based assessment of individuals with disorders of consciousness.
Centre de Recherches du Cyclotron - CRC
Fonds de la Recherche Scientifique (Communauté française de Belgique) - F.R.S.-FNRS ; James S. McDonnell Foundation ; Mind Science Foundation ; European Commission (Mindbridge, DISCOS, DECODER and COST) ; Concerted Research Action (ARC 06/11-340).