Recently, the cortical source of blink-related delta oscillations (delta BROs) in resting healthy subjects has been localized in the posterior cingulate cortex/precuneus (PCC/PCu), one of the main core-hubs of the default-mode network. This has been interpreted as the electrophysiological signature of the automatic monitoring of the surrounding environment while subjects are immersed in self-reflecting mental activities. Although delta BROs were directly correlated to the degree of consciousness impairment in patients with disorders of consciousness, they failed to differentiate vegetative state/unresponsive wakefulness syndrome (VS/UWS) from minimally conscious state (MCS). In the present study, we have extended the analysis of BROs to frequency bands other than delta in the attempt to find a biological marker that could support the differential diagnosis between VS/UWS and MCS. Four patients with VS/UWS, 5 patients with MCS, and 12 healthy matched controls (CTRL) underwent standard 19-channels EEG recordings during resting conditions. Three-second-lasting EEG epochs centred on each blink instance were submitted to time-frequency analyses in order to extract the normalized Blink-Related Synchronization/ Desynchronization (nBRS/BRD) of three bands of interest (low-alpha, high-alpha and low-beta) in the time-window of 50-550 ms after the blink-peak and to estimate the corresponding cortical sources of electrical activity. VS/UWS nBRS/BRD levels of all three bands were lower than those related to both CTRL and MCS, thus enabling the differential diagnosis between MCS and VS/UWS. Furthermore, MCS showed an intermediate signal intensity on PCC/PCu between CTRL and VS/UWS and a higher signal intensity on the left temporo-parieto-occipital junction and inferior occipito-temporal regions when compared to VS/UWS. This peculiar pattern of activation leads us to hypothesize that resting MCS patients have a bottom-up driven activation of the task positive network and thus are tendentially prone to respond to environmental stimuli, even though in an almost unintentional way. © 2014 Bonfiglio et al.
Bonfiglio, L., Piarulli, A., Olcese, U., Andre, P., Arrighi, P., Frisoli, A., … Carboncini, M. C. (2014). Spectral parameters modulation and source localization of blink-related alpha and low-beta oscillations differentiate minimally conscious state from vegetative state/unresponsive wakefulness syndrome. PLoS ONE, 9(3). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0093252