Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) applied over the prefrontal cortex has been shown to improve behavioral responsiveness in patients with disorders of consciousness following severe brain injury, especially those in minimally conscious state (MCS). However, one potential barrier of clinical response to tDCS is the timing of stimulation with regard to the fluctuations of vigilance that characterize this population. Indeed, a previous study showed that the vigilance of MCS patients has periodic average cycles of 70 minutes (range 57-80 minutes), potentially preventing them to be in an optimal neural state to benefit from tDCS when applied randomly. To tackle this issue, we propose a new protocol to optimize the application of tDCS by selectively stimulating at high and low vigilance states. Electroencephalography (EEG) real-time spectral entropy will be used as a marker of vigilance and to trigger tDCS, in a closed-loop fashion. We will conduct a randomized controlled crossover clinical trial on 16 patients in prolonged MCS who will undergo three EEG-tDCS sessions 5 days apart (1. tDCS applied at high vigilance; 2. tDCS applied at low vigilance; 3. tDCS applied at a random moment). Behavioral effects will be assessed using the Coma Recovery Scale-Revised at baseline and right after the stimulations. EEG will be recorded throughout the session and for 30 minutes after the end of the stimulation. This unique and novel approach will provide patients’ tailored treatment options, currently lacking in the field of disorders of consciousness.
Copyright © 2021. Published by Elsevier B.V.