Can transcranial direct current stimulation be useful in differentiating unresponsive wakefulness syndrome from minimally conscious state patients?

Antonino Naro, Rocco Salvatore Calabrò, Margherita Russo, Antonino Leo, Patrizia Pollicino, Angelo Quartarone, Placido Bramanti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Purpose: Disorders of consciousness (DOC) diagnosis relies on the presence or absence of purposeful motor responsiveness, which characterizes the minimally conscious state (MCS) and the unresponsive wakefulness syndrome (UWS), respectively. Functional neuroimaging studies have raised the question of possible residual conscious awareness also in clinically-defined UWS patients. The aim of our study was to identify electrophysiological parameters, by means of a transcranial magnetic stimulation approach, which might potentially express the presence of residual networks sustaining fragmentary behavioral patterns, even when no conscious behavior can be observed. Methods: We enrolled 25 severe DOC patients, following post-anoxic or traumatic brain injury and 20 healthy individuals (HC) as control group. Baseline electrophysiological evaluation evidenced, in comparison to HC, a partial preservation of cortical effective connectivity and excitability in clinically defined MCS, whereas these components were absent in clinically defined UWS. Then, we applied an anodal transcranial direct current stimulation (a-tDCS) protocol over the orbitofrontal cortex. Result: a-tDCS was able to boost cortical connectivity and excitability in all HC, MCS, and to unmask such excitability/connectivity in some UWS patients. Conclusion: a-tDCS could be useful in identifying residual connectivity markers in clinically-defined UWS, who may lack of purposeful behavior as a result of a motor-output failure.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)159-176
Number of pages18
JournalRestorative Neurology and Neuroscience
Volume33
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2015

Keywords

  • cortical connectivity
  • cortical excitability
  • Disorders of consciousness
  • minimally conscious state
  • transcranial direct current stimulation
  • transcranial magnetic stimulation
  • unresponsive wakefulness syndrome

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Developmental Neuroscience
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Medicine(all)

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