In recent decades, there has been a growing interest in the assessment of patients in altered states of consciousness. There is a need for accurate and early prediction of awakening and recovery from coma. Neurophysiological assessment of coma was once restricted to brainstem auditory and primary cortex somatosensory evoked potentials elicited in the 30 ms range, which have both shown good predictive value for poor coma outcome only. In this paper, we review how passive auditory oddball paradigms including deviant and novel sounds have proved their efficiency in assessing brain function at a higher level, without requiring the patient's active involvement, thus providing an enhanced tool for the prediction of coma outcome. The presence of an MMN in response to deviant stimuli highlights preserved automatic sensory memory processes. Recorded during coma, MMN has shown high specificity as a predictor of recovery of consciousness. The presence of a novelty P3 in response to the subject's own first name presented as a novel (rare) stimulus has shown a good correlation with coma awakening. There is now a growing interest in the search for markers of consciousness, if there are any, in unresponsive patients (chronic vegetative or minimally conscious states). We discuss the different ERP patterns observed in these patients. The presence of novelty P3, including parietal components and possibly followed by a late parietal positivity, raises the possibility that some awareness processes are at work in these unresponsive patients.