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Clinical and Research Reports   |    
Disorders of Consciousness and N400 ERP Measures in Response to a Semantic Task
Michela Balconi, M.D.; Roberta Arangio, M.D.; Chiara Guarnerio, M.D.
The Journal of Neuropsychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences 2013;25:237-243. doi:10.1176/appi.neuropsych.12090227
View Author and Article Information

This research was founded by Catholic University Research Foundation: D 1.1. 2011.

From the Dept. of Psychology, Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, Milano, Italy (MB, RA) and the Dept. of Psychology, Gruppo La Villa, Florence, Italy (CG).

Correspondence: Dr. Balconi; e-mail: michela.balconi@unicatt.it

Copyright © 2013 American Psychiatric Association

Received September 19, 2012; Revised January 23, 2013; Accepted February 20, 2013.

Abstract

Disorders of consciousness (DOC) have been studied in recent years. In the present research, electrophysiological measures (ERPs) were used to verify the preservation of semantic linguistic processes in vegetative states (VS) and minimal-consciousness state (MCS). Eighteen patients classified as VS or MCS, and 20 controls were submitted to a semantic associative task with congruous or incongruous word sequences (auditory stimuli). An increased N400 peak amplitude within the fronto-central cortical areas was shown in response to incongruous sequences for both patients and controls. Thus, semantic processing was partially preserved in both VS and MCS patients.

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FIGURE 1. Cortical Maps of the Congruous and Incongruous Conditions

An increased peak amplitude was reported at the fronto-central areas in response to the incongruous condition.

FIGURE 2. Cortical Maps of the Congruous [A] and Incongruous [B] Conditions for VS (Vegetative State) and MC (Minimally Conscious) Patients

An increased peak amplitude was reported at the fronto-central areas in response to the incongruous condition.

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TABLE 1.Mean Peak Amplitude (mVolt) of the N400 Effect as a Function of Congruence, Localization, and Lateralization, by Patient Group, mean (standard deviation)
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TABLE 2.Mean Peak Latency (msec.) of the N400 Effect as a Function of Congruence, Localization, and Lateralization, by Patient Group, mean (standard deviation)
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TABLE 3.Mean Peak Amplitude (mVolt) of N400-Like Effect as a Function of Congruence, Localization, and Lateralization for VS and MC Patients, mean (standard deviation)
Table Footer Note

VS: vegetative state; MC: minimally conscious.

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