Emotional and self-relevant stimuli are able to automatically attract attention and their use in patients suffering from disorders of consciousness (DOC) might help detecting otherwise hidden signs of cognition.
We here recorded EEG in three Locked-in syndrome (LIS) and four Vegetative State/Unresponsive Wakefulness Syndrome (VS/UWS) patients while they listened to the voice of a family member or an unfamiliar voice during a passive. Data indicate that, in a passive listening condition, the familiar voice induces stronger alpha desynchronization than the unfamiliar one. In an active condition, the target evoked stronger alpha desynchronization in controls, two LIS patients and one VS/UWS patient. Results suggest that self-relevant familiar voice stimuli can engage additional attentional resources and might allow the detection of otherwise hidden signs of instruction-following and thus residual awareness. Further studies are necessary to find sensitive paradigms that are suited to find subtle signs of cognition and awareness in DOC patients.