Consciousness: Its Neurobiology and the Major Classes of Impairment
Human consciousness requires brainstem, basal forebrain, and diencephalic areas to support generalized arousal, and functioning thalamocortical networks to respond to environmental and internal stimuli. Disconnection of these interconnected systems, typically from cardiac arrest and traumatic brain injury, can result in disorders of consciousness. Brain injuries can also result in loss of motor output out of proportion to consciousness, resulting in misdiagnoses. The authors review pathology and imaging studies and derive mechanistic models for each of these conditions. Such models may guide the development of target-based treatment algorithms to enhance recovery of consciousness in many of these patients.