The difficulties of behavioral evaluation of prolonged disorders of consciousness (DOC) motivate the development of brain-based diagnostic approaches. The perturbational complexity index (PCI), which measures the complexity of electroencephalographic (EEG) responses to transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), showed a remarkable sensitivity in detecting minimal signs of consciousness in previous studies. Here, we tested the reliability of PCI in an independently collected sample of 24 severely brain-injured patients, including 11 unresponsive wakefulness syndrome (UWS), 12 minimally conscious state (MCS) patients, and 1 emergence from MCS patient. We found that the individual maximum PCI value across stimulation sites fell within the consciousness range (i.e., was higher than PCI*, which is an empirical cutoff previously validated on a benchmark population) in 11 MCS patients, yielding a sensitivity of 92% that surpassed qualitative evaluation of resting EEG. Most UWS patients (n = 7, 64%) showed a slow and stereotypical TMS-EEG response, associated with low-complexity PCI values (i.e., ≤PCI*). Four UWS patients (36%) provided high-complexity PCI values, which might suggest a covert capacity for consciousness. In conclusion, this study successfully replicated the performance of PCI in discriminating between UWS and MCS patients, further motivating the application of TMS-EEG in the workflow of DOC evaluation.
- Disorders of consciousness
- Minimally conscious state
- Perturbational complexity index
- Transcranial magnetic stimulation
- Unresponsive wakefulness syndrome
ASJC Scopus subject areas