Centre for Cognitive Neuroscience and Cognitive Systems

CCNCS Seminar Details

Electroencephalography in the search for cognition in disorders of consciousness

Speaker: Srivas Chennu
Date/Time: Wednesday 8 June 2011, 3.00pm
Location: SW101 (Brian Spratt room) in Computing


In recent years, dramatic advances have been made in the use of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to probe cognitive processes and residual consciousness in vegetative and minimally conscious (VS/MCS) patients. However, for various logistic and economic reasons, fMRI is limited in its viability for wider use with this challenging patient population. In this talk, I explore the use of electroencephalography (EEG) as a robust, portable, and practical alternative for probing cognition and awareness in a much larger number of patients. With the development of these techniques, EEG is proving to be an excellent complement to MRI in broadening the use of neuroimaging in research into disorders of consciousness. I will highlight a range of cognitive experiments being developed at Cambridge, which use EEG to measure 'passive', bottom-up cognitive processes, in addition to 'active' top-down volitional 'thought-actions'. I elaborate on how results from such experiments could be used to infer levels and forms of extant cognition and covert awareness. In part, this research taps into a rich history of methodological research into EEG-based Brain-Computer Interfaces. I discuss how these methods could be applied to this challenging group of patients, to perhaps eventually enable basic communication. Alongside, I highlight key challenges to the interpretation of EEG data in the context of the difficult ethical questions surrounding these little-understood states of consciousness.

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Centre for Cognitive Science and Cognitive Systems, School of Psychology, University of Kent, Canterbury, Kent CT2 7NP

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Last Updated: 24/05/2013