EEG Correlates of Language Function in Traumatic Disorders of Consciousness

  
NCJ_cover.jpgBy Camille Chatelle, Eric S. Rosenthal, Yelena G. Bodien, Camille A. Spencer-Salmon, Joseph T. Giacino, Brian L. Edlow

First Online: 03 January 2020

Background/Objective
Behavioral examinations may fail to detect language function in patients with severe traumatic brain injury (TBI) due to confounds such as having an endotracheal tube. We investigated whether resting and stimulus-evoked electroencephalography (EEG) methods detect the presence of language function in patients with severe TBI.

Methods
Four EEG measures were assessed: (1) resting background (applying Forgacs’ criteria), (2) reactivity to speech, (3) background and reactivity (applying Synek’s criteria); and (4) an automated support vector machine (classifier for speech versus rest). Cohen’s kappa measured agreement between the four EEG measures and evidence of language function on a behavioral coma recovery scale-revised (CRS-R) and composite (CRS-R or functional MRI) reference standard. Sensitivity and specificity of each EEG measure were calculated against the reference standards.

Results
We enrolled 17 adult patients with severe TBI (mean ± SD age 27.0 ± 7.0 years; median [range] 11.5 [2–1173] days post-injury) and 16 healthy subjects (age 28.5 ± 7.8 years). The classifier, followed by Forgacs’ criteria for resting background, demonstrated the highest agreement with the behavioral reference standard. Only Synek’s criteria for background and reactivity showed significant agreement with the composite reference standard. The classifier and resting background showed balanced sensitivity and specificity for behavioral (sensitivity = 84.6% and 80.8%; specificity = 57.1% for both) and composite reference standards (sensitivity = 79.3% and 75.9%, specificity = 50% for both).

Conclusions
Methods applying an automated classifier, resting background, or resting background with reactivity may identify severe TBI patients with preserved language function. Automated classifier methods may enable unbiased and efficient assessment of larger populations or serial timepoints, while qualitative visual methods may be practical in community settings.

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