Sensory stimulation: theoretical perspectives and the evidence for effectiveness

NeuroRehabilitation. 1996;6(1):69-78. doi: 10.3233/NRE-1996-6108.


The use of sensory stimulation (SS) to promote recovery from coma has enjoyed widespread acceptance in rehabilitation settings. This has occurred despite the paucity of research regarding its effectiveness as well as opposing viewpoints concerning its utility. The purpose of this article is to: (1) outline the theoretical basis underlying the arguments for and against the use of SS; and (2) to review representative studies on the effectiveness of SS using a scientific evidence-based classification system. It is suggested that few conclusions can be drawn regarding the efficacy of SS because of the lack of well-designed clinical studies on this subject. Consequently, it is incumbent upon clinicians to clearly present to family members the high degree of uncertainty associated with this form of treatment.

Keywords: Coma; Outcome; Rehabilitation; Vegetative state.