TUNE IN, JOIN IN THE DIALOGUE: Is a new formula for assessing levels of consciousness ready for clinical application? What are the caveats of a system that applies transcranial magnetic stimulation to the brain and records high definition EEG responses? In a study reported in the Aug. 14 Science Translational Medicine, the investigators compressed the spatiotemporal pattern into a single value, ranging from 0–1, and reported, that using that formula, they were able to reliably differentiate levels of consciousness across a wide group of people — from healthy people during wakefulness, sleep, or under different sedatives; to patients in a locked-in state who can't move on command but who understand everything; to those who have been diagnosed as minimally conscious; to others in a persistent vegetative state.
In a video interview, Neurology Today Editor-in-chief Steven P. Ringel, MD, and Associate Editor Robert Holloway, MD, offer an analysis of the findings. Among the discussion points: Will interpretation of these responses be made more difficult by the fact that there was tremendous overlap between scores between normal people sleeping and patients in a minimally conscious state (MCS) and/or persistent vegetative state (PVS)? Given the fact that patients with MCS and PVS in intensive care units are receiving other medications, including anticonvulsants, isn't there a risk that uncontrollable variables will influence results and lead to misinterpretation? For more discussion, read the Sept. 19 Neurology Today story, “A New Tool for -Determining Levels of Consciousness”: http://bit.ly/7qKpuK. Watch the video commentary: http://bit.ly/aNQ4KB.