Toward operational architectonics of consciousness: basic evidence from patients with severe cerebral injuries

Cognitive Processing 13 (2):111-131 (2012)
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Abstract

Although several studies propose that the integrity of neuronal assemblies may underlie a phenomenon referred to as awareness, none of the known studies have explicitly investigated dynamics and functional interactions among neuronal assemblies as a function of consciousness expression. In order to address this question EEG operational architectonics analysis (Fingelkurts and Fingelkurts, 2001, 2008) was conducted in patients in minimally conscious (MCS) and vegetative states (VS) to study the dynamics of neuronal assemblies and operational synchrony among them as a function of consciousness expression. We found that in minimally conscious patients and especially in vegetative patients neuronal assemblies got smaller, their life-span shortened and they became highly unstable. Furthermore, we demonstrated that the extent/volume and strength of operational synchrony among neuronal assemblies was smallest or even absent in VS patients, intermediate in MCS patients and highest in healthy fully-conscious subjects. All findings were similarly observed in EEG alpha as well as beta1 and beta2 frequency oscillations. The presented results support the basic tenets of Operational Architectonics theory of brain-mind functioning and suggest that EEG operational architectonics analysis may provide an objective and accurate means of assessing signs of (un)consciousness in patients with severe brain injuries. Therefore this methodological approach may complement the existing “gold standard” of behavioral assessment of this population of challenging patients and inform the diagnostic and treatment decision-making processes.

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