Measuring consciousness in severely damaged brains

Annu Rev Neurosci. 2014;37:457-78. doi: 10.1146/annurev-neuro-062012-170339. Epub 2014 Jun 23.


Significant advances have been made in the behavioral assessment and clinical management of disorders of consciousness (DOC). In addition, functional neuroimaging paradigms are now available to help assess consciousness levels in this challenging patient population. The success of these neuroimaging approaches as diagnostic markers is, however, intrinsically linked to understanding the relationships between consciousness and the brain. In this context, a combined theoretical approach to neuroimaging studies is needed. The promise of such theoretically based markers is illustrated by recent findings that used a perturbational approach to assess the levels of consciousness. Further research on the contents of consciousness in DOC is also needed.

Keywords: clinical assessment; minimally conscious state; neural correlates of consciousness; neuroimaging; vegetative state.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain / physiopathology*
  • Coma / diagnosis*
  • Coma / physiopathology*
  • Consciousness*
  • Functional Neuroimaging
  • Humans
  • Persistent Vegetative State / diagnosis*
  • Persistent Vegetative State / physiopathology*
  • Quadriplegia / diagnosis
  • Quadriplegia / physiopathology