Event-related brain potential modulation in patients with severe brain damage

M. Cavinato, C. Volpato, S. Silvoni, M. Sacchetto, A. Merico, F. Piccione

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: The limited evidence and inconsistency of purposeful behaviors in patients in a minimally conscious state (MCS) asks for objective electrophysiological marker of the level of consciousness. Here, a comparison between event-related potentials (ERPs) was investigated using different level of stimulus complexity. Methods: ERPs were recorded in seventeen patients, 6 of which in vegetative state (VS), 11 in MCS, and 10 controls. Three oddball paradigms with different level of complexity were applied: sine tones, the subject's own name versus sine tones and other first names. Latencies and amplitudes of N1 and P3 waves were compared. Results: Cortical responses were found in all MCS patients, and in 6 of 11 patients in VS. Healthy controls and MCS patients showed a progressive increase of P3 latency in relation to the level of stimulus complexity. No modulation of P3 latency was observed in the vegetative patients. Conclusions: These results suggest that the modulation of P3 latency related to stimulus complexity may represent an objective index of higher-order processing integration that predicts the recovery of consciousness from VS to MCS when clinical manifestations are inconsistent. Significance: Modulation of P3 latency related to stimulus complexity could provide valuable information about the cognitive capabilities of unresponsive patients.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)719-724
Number of pages6
JournalClinical Neurophysiology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2011


  • Consciousness
  • Event-related potentials
  • Minimally conscious state
  • Vegetative state

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Neurology
  • Physiology (medical)
  • Sensory Systems

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