2012 Pre-Conference Workshop    



Functional Neuroimaging of (Un)Consciousness?

Tuesday April 10th, 2012  - 9 am to 1 pm


Steven Laureys


Functional neuroimaging and electrophysiology studies are changing our understanding of patients with coma and related states. Some severely brain damaged patients may show residual cortical processing in the absence of behavioural signs of consciousness. An improved assessment of brain function in coma and related states is not only changing nosology and medical care but also offers    a better-documented diagnosis and prognosis and helps to further identify the neural correlates of human consciousness.

Taken together, recent studies show that awareness is an emergent property of the collective behavior of frontoparietal top-down connectivity. Within this network, external (sensory) awareness depends on lateral prefrontal/parietal cortices while internal (self) awareness correlates with precuneal/mesiofrontal midline activity. Of clinical importance, this knowledge now permits to improve the diagnosis of patients with disorders of consciousness, which remains very challenging at the bedside. Current technology now also permits to show command-specific changes in EEG or fMRI signals providing motor-independent evidence of conscious thoughts and in come cases even of communication.



Steven Laureys MD, PhD, leads the Coma Science Group at the Cyclotron Research Center (Director Pr André Luxen) and Department of Neurology, Sart Tilman Liège University Hospital (Pr Gustave Moonen).

Dr. Laureys is Clinical Professor (ULg) and Senior Research Associate (tenure) at the Belgian National Fund of Scientific Research (FNRS). He graduated as a Medical Doctor from the Vrije Universiteit Brussel Belgium, in 1993. While specializing in Neurology he entered a research career and obtained his M.Sc. in Pharmaceutical Medicine working on pain and stroke using in vivo microdialysis and diffusion MRI in the rat (1997). Drawn by functional neuroimaging, he moved to the Cyclotron Research Center at the University of Liège, Belgium, where he obtained his Ph.D. (2000) and his "thèse d'agrégation de l'enseignement supérieur" (2007) studying residual brain function in coma, vegetative, minimally conscious and locked-in states .

He is board-certified in neurology (1998) and in palliative and end-of-life medicine (2004) and presently is invited professor at the Collège Belgique (Belgian Royal Academy of Sciences) and chair of the "European Neurological Society Subcommittee on Coma and disorders of consciousness".

A recipient of the William James Prize (2004) from the Association for the Scientific Study of Consciousness (ASSC) and the Cognitive Neuroscience Society (CNS) Young Investigator Award (2007), Dr. Laureys has published several books: The Neurology of Consciousness (with Giulio Tononi, Academic Press,2008); Coma Science (with Adrian Owen et Nicholas Schiff; Elsevier 2009); Disorders of Consciousness (with Nicholas Schiff, Wiley, 2009) and The Boundaries of Consciousness (Elsevier, 2005).

He is a member of the American Academy of Neurology Committee for the Development of Practice Guidelines for the Vegetative and Minimally Conscious State (2007) (Robert G. Holloway, Dan Larriviere, Michael A. Williams), is Honorary International Fellow of the Royal Hospital of Neuro-disability, London, UK (Keith Andrews) and was invited member of the 2004 Congress on Life-Sustaining Treatments in the Vegetative State organized by the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy of Life (Gian Luigi Gigli) and the 2006 Mohonk Consensus Meeting for the US Congressional Report on Disorders of Consciousness (Joseph Giacino).


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