Electromyographic decoding of response to command in disorders of consciousness

Damien Lesenfants*, Dina Habbal, Camille Chatelle, Caroline Schnakers, Steven Laureys, Quentin Noirhomme

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

13 Citations (Web of Science)


OBJECTIVE: To propose a new methodology based on single-trial analysis for detecting residual response to command with EMG in patients with disorders of consciousness (DOC), overcoming the issue of trial dependency and decreasing the influence of a patient's fluctuation of vigilance or arousal over time on diagnostic accuracy.

METHODS: Forty-five patients with DOC (18 with vegetative/unresponsive wakefulness syndrome [VS/UWS], 22 in a minimally conscious state [MCS], 3 who emerged from MCS [EMCS], and 2 with locked-in syndrome [LIS]) and 20 healthy controls were included in the study. Patients were randomly instructed to either move their left or right hand or listen to a control command ("It is a sunny day") while EMG activity was recorded on both arms.

RESULTS: Differential EMG activity was detected in all MCS cases displaying reproducible response to command at bedside on multiple assessments, even though only 6 of the 14 individuals presented a behavioral response to command on the day of the EMG assessment. An EMG response was also detected in all EMCS and LIS patients, and 2 MCS patients showing nonreflexive movements without command following at the bedside. None of the VS/UWS presented a response to command with this method.

CONCLUSIONS: This method allowed us to reliably distinguish between different levels of consciousness and could potentially help decrease diagnostic errors in patients with motor impairment but presenting residual motor activity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2099-2107
Number of pages9
Issue number20
Publication statusPublished - 15 Nov 2016

Cite this