Functional MRI study of the primary somatosensory cortex in comatose survivors of cardiac arrest

Exp Neurol. 2009 Jun;217(2):320-7. doi: 10.1016/j.expneurol.2009.03.011. Epub 2009 Mar 21.


It is difficult to assess cerebral function in comatose patients. Because earlier functional neuroimaging studies demonstrate associations between cerebral metabolism and levels of consciousness, fMRI in comatose survivors of cardiac arrest could provide further insight into cerebral function during coma. Using fMRI, cerebral activation to somatosensory stimulation to the palm of the hand was measured in 19 comatose survivors of cardiac arrest and in 10 healthy control subjects and was compared to somatosensory-evoked potential (SSEP) testing of the median nerve. Changes in the blood oxygenation-level dependent signal (BOLD) in the primary somatosensory cortex (S1) contralateral to the stimulated hand were quantified. Clinical outcome was assessed using the Glasgow Outcome Scale (GOS) and the modified Rankin Scale at 3 months post-cardiac arrest. Five out of 19 patients were alive at 3 months. Patients who survived cardiac arrest showed greater BOLD in S1 contralateral to somatosensory stimulation of the hand compared to patients who eventually did not. Greater BOLD was also seen in S1 of patients who retained their SSEP N20 waveforms. There were also positive correlations between BOLD in S1 with both levels of consciousness and measures of outcome at 3 months. In summary, this study demonstrates that BOLD in the S1 contralateral to somatosensory stimulation of the hand varies with clinical measures of the level of consciousness during coma.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Brain Mapping
  • Cerebrovascular Circulation / physiology
  • Coma / etiology
  • Coma / physiopathology*
  • Death, Sudden, Cardiac*
  • Evoked Potentials, Somatosensory / physiology*
  • Female
  • Functional Laterality / physiology
  • Glasgow Outcome Scale
  • Humans
  • Hypoxia-Ischemia, Brain / complications*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Median Nerve
  • Middle Aged
  • Physical Stimulation
  • Somatosensory Cortex / physiopathology*
  • Survival Rate