Extending communication for patients with disorders of consciousness

Xingwen Liang, Levin Kuhlmann, Leigh A. Johnston, David B. Grayden, Simon Vogrin, Rosemary Crossley, Karen Fuller, Mark Lourensz, Mark J. Cook

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9 Citations (Scopus)


BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: The difficulty of distinguishing disorders of consciousness from certain disorders of communication leads to the possibility of false diagnosis. Our aim is to communicate with patients with disorders of consciousness through asking them to answer questions with "yes/no" by performing mental imagery tasks using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). METHODS: A 1.5 T fMRI study with 5 patients and a control group is presented. Speech comprehension, mental imagery, and question-answer tests were performed. RESULTS: The imagery task of mental calculation produced equally distinct activation patterns when compared to navigation and motor imagery in controls. For controls, we could infer answers to questions based on imagery activations. Two patients produced activations in similar areas to controls for certain imagery tasks, however, no activations were observed for the question-answer task. CONCLUSIONS: The results from 2 patients provide independent support of similar work by others with 3 T fMRI, and demonstrate broader clinical utility for these tests at 1.5 T despite lower signal-to-noise ratio. Based on the control results, mental calculation adds a robust imagery task for use in future studies of this kind.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)31-38
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Neuroimaging
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Disorders of consciousness
  • FMRI
  • Minimally conscious state
  • Neuroimaging
  • Vegetative state

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