Understanding Disorders of Consciousness

Camille Chatelle and Steven Laureys

in Oxford Handbook of Neuroethics

Published in print April 2011 | ISBN: 9780199570706
Published online November 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Library of Psychology

Understanding Disorders of Consciousness

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  • Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Clinical Psychology



Progress in medical and intensive care has led to an increased number of patients who survive severe brain damage. Different clinical entities encountered on the gradual recovery from coma are illustrated as a function of cognitive and motor capacity. The evaluation of consciousness in coma survivors is challenging and sometimes erroneous. Behavioral assessment remains the classical way to assess consciousness in severely brain damaged patients. It also analyses various means to prevent complication and enhance recovery. The effectiveness of the treatment options remains debated. Understanding the state of awareness in such patients is of major medical and ethical interest. Neuroimaging and EEG studies in severely brain-damaged, non-communicative patients raise several methodological and ethical concerns.

Keywords: clinical entities; consciousness; brain damage; neuroimaging; ethical concerns; behavioral assessment

Article.  6079 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; Cognitive Neuroscience ; Clinical Psychology

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