Original Articles

Advances in the neurorehabilitation of severe disorder of consciousness


Introduction. The paper describes the evolution of knowledge concerning severe brain  injury which determines the Vegetative State/Unresponsive Wakefulness Syndrome. Background. The term Vegetative State was proposed by Jennet and Plum in 1972. Later  on, the Intensive Care Units progresses increased the survival of these patients and, contemporary, decreased their characteristic conditions of cachexia and severe dystonia. In  1994, the disease was conceived as a disconnection syndrome of the hemispheres from the  brainstem, mainly due to a temporary or permanent deficit of the functions of the white  matter. From 2005 on, the psychophysiological parameters relative to an emotional consciousness, albeit submerged, were described. Since then, it has been recognized that the  brain of these patients was not only to be considered living but also working.
Conclusion. The latest studies that have greatly improved the knowledge of the physi-opathology of this particular state of consciousness. These new insights have led to the  formation of a European Union Task Force, which has proposed in 2009 to change the  name  from  a  Vegetative  State  to  Unresponsive  Wakefulness  Syndrome,  outlining  the  character of syndrome and not that of state, as forms of even late recovery in consciousness levels have been observed and described.


Disorders of consciousness; vegetative state; vegetative state; heart rate variability; central autonomic

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