Can electromyography objectively detect voluntary movement in disorders of consciousness?

J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry. 2008 Jul;79(7):826-8. doi: 10.1136/jnnp.2007.132738. Epub 2007 Dec 20.


Determining conscious processing in unresponsive patients relies on subjective behavioural assessment. Using data from hand electromyography, the authors studied the occurrence of subthreshold muscle activity in response to verbal command, as an objective indicator of awareness in 10 disorders of consciousness patients. One out of eight vegetative state patients and both minimally conscious patients (n = 2) demonstrated an increased electromyography signal specifically linked to command. These findings suggest electromyography could be used to assess awareness objectively in pathologies of consciousness.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Awareness / physiology*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Electromyography*
  • Female
  • Hand
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Activity / physiology*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiopathology*
  • Persistent Vegetative State / etiology
  • Persistent Vegetative State / physiopathology*
  • Persistent Vegetative State / psychology*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Task Performance and Analysis