Anterior cingulate activity and the self in disorders of consciousness

Pengmin Qin, Haibo Di, Yijun Liu, Senming Yu, Qiyong Gong, Niall Duncan, Xuchu Weng, Steven Laureys, Georg Northoff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

95 Citations (Scopus)


Objectives: The aim of this study was to investigate the relationship between medial cortical activation and the presence of self and consciousness in healthy subjects and patients with vegetative state and minimally conscious state using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Experiment design: We first conducted two fMRI experiments in healthy subjects to identify brain regions specifically associated with self-perception through the use of different auditory stimuli that had different grades of self-relatedness. We then applied these regions as functional localizers to examine the relationship between neural activity changes during self-relatedness and consciousness level in the patients with disorders of consciousness (DOC). Principal observations: We demonstrated recruitment of various anterior medial cortical regions including the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) in healthy subjects during auditory perception of self-related stimuli. We further showed that patients with DOC showed signal changes in the ACC during auditory perception of self-related stimuli. Finally, it was shown that these signal changes correlate with the level of consciousness in the patients with DOC. Conclusion: The degree of consciousness in patients with DOC was correlated with neural activity in the ACC induced by self-related stimuli. Our results not only shed light on the pathophysiology of DOC, but may also suggest a useful neural, and thus diagnostic, marker of the dysfunction of consciousness in vegetative patients. Hum Brain Mapp, 2010.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1993-2002
Number of pages10
JournalHuman Brain Mapping
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Anterior cingulate cortex
  • Minimally conscious state
  • Own name
  • Self
  • Vegetative state

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Radiological and Ultrasound Technology
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


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