Dissociations between behavioural and functional magnetic resonance imaging-based evaluations of cognitive function after brain injury
Magnetic Resonance Imaging
Functional neuroimaging methods hold promise for the identification of cognitive function and communication capacity in some severely brain-injured patients who may not retain sufficient motor function to demonstrate their abilities. We studied seven severely brain-injured patients and a control group of 14 subjects using a novel hierarchical functional magnetic resonance imaging assessment utilizing mental imagery responses. Whereas the control group showed consistent and accurate (for communication) blood-oxygen-level-dependent responses without exception, the brain-injured subjects showed a wide variation in the correlation of blood-oxygen-level-dependent responses and overt behavioural responses. Specifically, the brain-injured subjects dissociated bedside and functional magnetic resonance imaging-based command following and communication capabilities. These observations reveal significant challenges in developing validated functional magnetic resonance imaging-based methods for clinical use and raise interesting questions about underlying brain function assayed using these methods in brain-injured subjects.