Mirror efficiency in the assessment of visual pursuit in patients in minimally conscious state

Authors: Sarah Wannez; Audrey Vanhaudenhuyse; Steven Laureys; Serge Brédart. —

Objective: Visual pursuit should be tested with a mirror in patients with disorders of consciousness. This stimulus was indeed more efficient than a person or an object, and the auto-referential aspect was supposed to be the key feature. The present study tested the hypothesis that the mirror was more efficient because of its self-aspect.

Methods: The mirror was compared (1) to the patient’s picture and to the picture of a famous face, in 22 patients in minimally conscious state and (2) to the patient’s picture and a fake mirror, which had dynamical and bright aspects of the mirror, without reflecting the face, in 26 other patients in minimally conscious state.

Results: The mirror was more efficient than the patient’s picture, which was not statistically different from the famous face. The second part of the study confirmed the statistical difference between the mirror and the picture. However, the fake mirror was neither statistically different from the mirror nor from the picture.

Conclusions: Although our results suggest that the hypothesis proposed by previous studies was partly wrong, they confirm that the mirror is the best stimulus to use when assessing visual pursuit.

Link to publication here.

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