Visual processing during recovery from vegetative state to consciousness: Comparing behavioral indices to brain responses

V. J. M. Wijnen*, H. J. Eilander, B. de Gelder, G. J. M. van Boxtel

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Background. - Auditory stimulation is often used to evoke responses in unresponsive patients who have suffered severe brain injury. In order to investigate visual responses, we examined visual evoked potentials (VEPs) and behavioral responses to visual stimuli in vegetative patients during recovery to consciousness. Methods. - Behavioral responses to visual stimuli (visual localization, comprehension of written commands, and object manipulation) and flash VEPs were repeatedly examined in eleven vegetative patients every two weeks for an average period of 2.6 months, and patients' VEPs were compared to a healthy control group. Long-term outcome of the patients was assessed 2-3 years later. Results. - Visual response scores increased during recovery to consciousness for all scales: visual localization, comprehension of written commands, and object manipulation. VEP amplitudes were smaller, and latencies were longer in the patient group relative to the controls. VEPs characteristics at first measurement were related to long-term outcome up to three years after injury. Conclusions. - Our findings show the improvement of visual responding with recovery from the vegetative state to consciousness. Elementary visual processing is present, yet according to VEP responses, poorer in vegetative and minimally conscious state than in healthy controls, and remains poorer when patients recovered to consciousness. However, initial VEPs are related to Long-term outcome.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)457-469
JournalNeurophysiologie Clinique-Clinical Neurophysiology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2014


  • Brain injury
  • Vegetative state
  • Unresponsive wakefulness syndrome
  • Minimally conscious state
  • Consciousness Visual evoked potentials

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