Objective: To determine whether EEG spectral analysis could be used to demonstrate awareness in patients with severe brain injury. Methods: We recorded EEG from healthy controls and three patients with severe brain injury, ranging from minimally conscious state (MCS) to locked-in-state (LIS), while they were asked to imagine motor and spatial navigation tasks. We assessed EEG spectral differences from 4 to 24 Hz with univariate comparisons (individual frequencies) and multivariate comparisons (patterns across the frequency range).
Results: In controls, EEG spectral power differed at multiple frequency bands and channels during performance of both tasks compared to a resting baseline. As patterns of signal change were inconsistent between controls, we defined a positive response in patient subjects as consistent spectral changes across task performances. One patient in MCS and one in LIS showed evidence of motor imagery task performance, though with patterns of spectral change different from the controls.
Conclusion: EEG power spectral analysis demonstrates evidence for performance of mental imagery tasks in healthy controls and patients with severe brain injury.
Significance: EEG power spectral analysis can be used as a flexible bedside tool to demonstrate awareness in brain-injured patients who are otherwise unable to communicate.