RC1: Disorders of Consciousness: Is there anybody in there?


How do we know whether patients who are thought to lack consciousness are indeed not aware of themselves and their environment? During the last years, an increasing number of neuroimaging studies has demonstrated covert awareness in behaviorally unresponsive patients who were diagnosed as “vegetative state”. This introductory course will give an overview of behavioral and neuroimaging methods for diagnosing DoC patients and discuss ethical implications that arise from these current findings.


Participants in this course will get an understanding of the term “Disorders of Consciousness”, the disorders they encompass and how they are commonly diagnosed and treated. In particular, they will get to know current neuroimaging techniques for detecting covert awareness and novel experimental treatments that allowed patients to re-gain consciousness. The course aims to conclude with an open discussion on ethical issues that have emerged from the first part of the course.


Owen, A. M., Coleman, M. R., Boly, M., Davis, M. H., Laureys, S., & Pickard, J. D.
(2006). Detecting awareness in the vegetative state. Science, 313(5792), 1402-1402.

Laureys, S., Owen, A. M., & Schiff, N. D. (2004). Brain function in coma, vegetative
state, and related disorders. The Lancet Neurology, 3(9), 537-546.

Naci, L., Cusack, R., Anello, M., & Owen, A. M. (2014). A common neural code for
similar conscious experiences in different individuals. Proceedings of the National
Academy of Sciences, 111(39), 14277-14282.

Haugg, A., Cusack., R., Gonzalez-Lara, L., Sorger, B., Owen, A. M., & Naci, L. (2018). Do patients thought to lack consciousness retain the capacity for internal as well as external awareness? (Under Review)

Naci, L., Haugg, A., MacDonald, A., Anello, M., Houldin, E., Naqshbandi, S.,
Gonzalez-Lara, L.E., Arango, M., Harle, C., Cusack, R., & Owen, A. M. (2018)
Functional diversity of brain networks supports consciousness and
intelligence. (Under Review)

Course location

Hörsaal 3

Course requirements

Instructor information.

MSc Amelie Haugg


Psychiatric University Hospital, University of Zurich, Lenggstrasse 31, Zurich, Switzerland


Amelie Haugg is PhD student at the Psychiatric University Hospital in Zurich where she develops a novel real-time fMRI neurofeedback approach for treating nicotine addiction. She has a background in Cognitive Science (University of Tübingen, Germany) and Cognitive Neuroscience (Maastricht University, The Netherlands). For her master’s thesis, she spent 9 months in Adrian Owen’s laboratory in Canada, where she investigated functional connectivity in patients with disorders of consciousness.