Large scale screening of neural signatures of consciousness in patients in a vegetative or minimally conscious state

Brain. 2014 Aug;137(Pt 8):2258-70. doi: 10.1093/brain/awu141. Epub 2014 Jun 11.


In recent years, numerous electrophysiological signatures of consciousness have been proposed. Here, we perform a systematic analysis of these electroencephalography markers by quantifying their efficiency in differentiating patients in a vegetative state from those in a minimally conscious or conscious state. Capitalizing on a review of previous experiments and current theories, we identify a series of measures that can be organized into four dimensions: (i) event-related potentials versus ongoing electroencephalography activity; (ii) local dynamics versus inter-electrode information exchange; (iii) spectral patterns versus information complexity; and (iv) average versus fluctuations over the recording session. We analysed a large set of 181 high-density electroencephalography recordings acquired in a 30 minutes protocol. We show that low-frequency power, electroencephalography complexity, and information exchange constitute the most reliable signatures of the conscious state. When combined, these measures synergize to allow an automatic classification of patients' state of consciousness.

Keywords: EEG; consciousness; minimally conscious state; unresponsive wakefulness syndrome; vegetative state.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Biomarkers
  • Brain / physiopathology*
  • Brain Mapping / classification
  • Brain Mapping / methods
  • Brain Mapping / standards*
  • Clinical Protocols
  • Consciousness Disorders / classification
  • Consciousness Disorders / etiology
  • Consciousness Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Electroencephalography / classification
  • Electroencephalography / methods
  • Electroencephalography / standards*
  • Evoked Potentials / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Persistent Vegetative State / classification
  • Persistent Vegetative State / etiology
  • Persistent Vegetative State / physiopathology
  • Trauma Severity Indices
  • Young Adult


  • Biomarkers