December 21, 2006

Functional neuroimaging in unconscious states

mri.jpegSteven Laureys and colleagues ask whether functional imaging methods such as fMRI and PET can be used to detect consciousness in individual patients. Recent studies have showed activation patterns in a vegetative patient that are comparable to helahty subjects. One pertinent question is therefore whether we can move from group studies towards individual scans. Here, Laureys et al. still have reservations, saying that “[published] data are insufficient to make recommendations for or against any of the neurorehabilitative treatments in vegetative state and minimally conscious state patients.”

How should functional imaging of patients with disorders of consciousness contribute to their clinical rehabilitation needs? Laureys S, Giacino JT, Schiff ND, Schabus M, Owen AM. 2006 Dec ; 19 (6): 520-527

PURPOSE OF REVIEW: We discuss the problems of evidence-based neurorehabilitation in disorders of consciousness, and recent functional neuroimaging data obtained in the vegetative state and minimally conscious state. RECENT FINDINGS: Published data are insufficient to make recommendations for or against any of the neurorehabilitative treatments in vegetative state and minimally conscious state patients. Electrophysiological and functional imaging studies have been shown to be useful in measuring residual brain function in noncommunicative brain-damaged patients. Despite the fact that such studies could in principle allow an objective quantification of the putative cerebral effect of rehabilitative treatment in the vegetative state and minimally conscious state, they have so far not been used in this context. SUMMARY: Without controlled studies and careful patient selection criteria it will not be possible to evaluate the potential of therapeutic interventions in disorders of consciousness. There also is a need to elucidate the neurophysiological effects of such treatments. Integration of multimodal neuroimaging techniques should eventually improve our ability to disentangle differences in outcome on the basis of underlying mechanisms and better guide our therapeutic options in the challenging patient populations encountered following severe acute brain damage. HubMedSee this page for important information

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