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Poster E29

Can patients with disorders of consciousness form autobiographical memories?

Poster Session E - Monday, April 15, 2024, 2:30 – 4:30 pm EDT, Sheraton Hall ABC

Matthew Kolisnyk1 (, Geoff Laforge1, Marie-Eve Gagnon2, Jonathan Erez1, Adrian Owen1; 1Western University, 2Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières

Assessing preserved cognitive functioning in patients with disorders of consciousness (DOC) is a challenging clinical problem. Traditionally, patients who survive their initial brain injury but remain behaviourally unresponsive are assumed to have no cognitive functioning. However, previous research has shown that a subset of these patients produce neural responses on a variety of tasks ranging from simple auditory perception to command following, suggesting evidence of a rich inner life. That said, little is known about other essential cognitive functions, such as whether they can form novel autobiographical memories. This study included 12 healthy controls and one DOC patient. These participants were each seated in a wheelchair and equipped with a wearable camera during a guided mall tour. One week later, all participants underwent fMRI scans while they watched recordings from their own visit, others' visits, and a control condition (a bookstore setting that no participant visited). A linear support vector classifier (SVC) was trained on trial-averaged BOLD activity from controls using an ROI of regions implicated in autobiographical memory (via the NeuroQuery meta-analysis database). This model was then tested on the patient's data. The patient's classification accuracy was within the range of healthy controls (Balanced Accuracy = .438, Z = -1.213, p = .113) and significantly greater than chance levels defined via permutation testing (p = .008), suggesting that the patient could differentiate between autobiographical and non-autobiographical memories. In conclusion, this novel paradigm shows potential in enabling the investigation of autobiographical memory in behaviourally unresponsive patients following a brain injury.

Topic Area: LONG-TERM MEMORY: Episodic


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April 13–16  |  2024