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Wolfson Brain Imaging Centre

Department of Clinical Neurosciences

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Science 2006The Impaired Consciousness Research Group consists of a small group of healthcare professionals and academics with a common interest and desire to improve the care of persons with impaired consciousness (coma, vegetative state, minimally conscious state) after severe brain injury.

The groups primary objective is to develop a series of objective tests, which eventually form a national standard for the assessment of persons with impaired consciousness. This objective is driven by the knowledge that there currently exists a high rate of misdiagnosis, which is exacerbated by widely varying practices and a lack of knowledge and training within the health care system. The group, believe everyone affected should receive a comprehensive programme of assessment, that identifies any residual potential, however small, and uses this to inform interventions to facilitate recovery. Through a multimodal programme (behavioural examination, electrophysiology and functional brain imaging), the research group aims to develop a greater understanding of coma, vegetative and minimally conscious state, including the pathophysiological mechanisms responsible. It hopes to raise awareness of these conditions across disciplines and most importantly develop sources of information for the families of those persons affected by severe brain injury.

To achieve these objectives we have developed a one week programme of investigation at Addenbrookes Hospital in Cambridge, which includes repeated behavioural examination, sensory and cognitive electrophysiology, anatomical and functional brain imaging. This programme has been approved by the Cambridge ethics committee and the group works with a number of approved healthcare institutions to recruit patients to the study.