Objective Although it is believed that patients with Unresponsive Wakefulness Syndrome (UWS) do not feel pain, recent neuroimaging and neurophysiologic studies have demonstrated some residual traces of nociceptive processing. Methods To confirm this growing evidence, we evaluated 21 patients suffering from chronic disorders of consciousness (DOC) (both UWS, n = 11, and Minimally Conscious State – MCS –, n = 10), using an Event-Related Potential (ERP) Low-Resolution Brain Electromagnetic Tomography (LORETA) approach, based on nociceptive repeated laser stimulation (RLS). We delivered laser stimuli to the dorsum of both hands and analysed the γ-band LORETA activations and the ERP γ-power magnitude induced by laser stimulation, as well as the heart rate variability (HRV). Results We found partially preserved cortical activations and ERP γ-power magnitude in all MCS and two UWS individuals. These effects were paralleled by a purposeful behaviour, and a reduced HRV concerning nociceptive stimulation, whereas the two UWS individuals showed no more than reflex behaviours, besides a strong limbic activation. Conclusions Some UWS patients may somehow perceive the affective components of nociceptive stimulation. Significance The diagnosis of functional locked-in syndrome should be taken into account when dealing with DOC differential diagnosis.
File in questo prodotto:
Non ci sono file associati a questo prodotto.