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Steven Laureys (born December 24, 1968)[1] is a Belgian neurologist.

Contents

Career

Laureys graduated as a Medical Doctor from the Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium, in 1993. While specializing in neurology he entered a research career and obtained his M.Sc. in Pharmaceutical Medicine working on pain and stroke using in vivo microdialysis and diffusion MRI in the rat (1997). Drawn by functional neuroimaging, he moved to the Cyclotron Research Center at the University of Liège, Belgium, where he obtained his Ph.D. studying residual brain function in the vegetative state in 2000. He is board-certified in neurology (1998) and in end-of-life and palliative medicine (2004).

He edited The Boundaries of Consciousness (Elsevier 2005) and co-edited The Neurology of Consciousness (Academic Press 2009).

He currently leads the Coma Science Group at the Cyclotron Research Centre of the University of Liège, Belgium. He is clinical professor of neurology, at the Liège University Hospital and Senior Research Associate at the National Fund for Scientific Research. Since 2008, Laureys is chair of the European Neurological Society Subcommittee on Coma and Disorders of Consciousness [2] and since 2009 he is invited professor at the Royal Academy of Belgium.

Research

His team assesses the recovery of neurological disability and of neuronal plasticity in severely brain damaged patients with altered states of consciousness by means of multimodal functional neuroimaging. It aims at characterizing the brain structure and the residual cerebral function in patients who survive a severe brain injury: patients in coma, vegetative state, minimally conscious state and locked in syndrome.

The importance of this project is twofold. First, these patients represent a problem in terms of diagnosis, prognosis, treatment and daily management. Second, these patients offer the opportunity to explore human consciousness, which is presently one major conundrum neurosciences have to solve. Indeed, these patients present a complete, nearly graded, range of conscious states from unconsciousness (coma) to full awareness (locked-in syndrome).

This research confronts clinical expertise and bedside behavioral evaluation of altered states of consciousness with state-of-the-art multimodal imaging combining the information from positron emission tomography (PET), functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), structural MRI, electroencephalography (EEG), event related potential (ERP) and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) data.

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Rom Houben

In 2006 Laureys used the latest brain-scan technology on Rom Houben, who had been diagnosed as being in a vegetative state since a car crash in 1983. Houben's brain was found to be functioning almost normally. With appropriate treatment Houben was subsequently able to move enough to read, move his feet, and communicate through a computer. After the case was published in BMC Neurology in 2009,[3] it received extensive newspaper coverage first in German[4] later in a number of English media.[5][6]

Prominent skeptics such as James Randi have pointed out that Mr. Houben's means of communication via keyboard clearly resembles facilitated communication, where it is a facilitator and not the patient who is actively pressing the buttons by guiding the patient's hand,[7] thus raising questions about both Mr. Houben's ability to communicate and Dr. Laurey's diagnosis. Others point out that after 23 years in a locked-in state, it is improbable that the man would be able to communicate lucidly.[8] If Houben is truly locked in, the neurological mechanism by which he is able to generate enough pressure in his fingers to type with assistance is yet unclear.[9]Further testing, such as asking Mr. Houben to describe a few simple objects that are carefully kept hidden from everyone in the room but him, skeptics suggest, might put these suspicions of fraud at rest.[10]

However, according to the Times Laureys says that he has verified that the facilitated communication is genuine, by showing Houben objects when the facilitator was not present in the room, and later asking Houben to recall those objects.[11] Skeptics, however, observe that Dr. Laureys does not appear to have used proper controls in his testing and thus could easily have been deceived, either through others in the room cueing the facilitator directly or through the Clever Hans effect; if anyone in the room is aware of what is shown to Mr. Houben but Mr. Houben himself until he has described it, then the test's results are suspect. This includes Dr. Laureys or any other person administering the test.

In an interview with the Belgian newspaper De Standaard[12], Laureys states that he was not involved in the choice of communication method. He claims to be "a skeptic myself" and acknowledges that "the bad reputation of some forms [of facilitated communication] is justified". He also claims that Houbens case was only made public because Der Spiegel wanted to report on his study and was looking for a "human element" to the story: "I knew that Rom and his family were willing to collaborate because they had done so before [for a Flemish TV channel]." However, he also criticizes some of the negative feedback for "judging the evidence only on the basis of some video footage" and declares that "given time, we will look scientifically into the different ways of communication. For us, this seems to be the proper way."

Awards

References

  1. ^ "In context". Lancet Neurology. November, 2008. http://www.thelancet.com/journals/laneur/article/PIIS1474-4422(08)70236-9. Retrieved 2009-07-19.  
  2. ^ "ENS Subcommittees". European Neurological Society. http://www.ensinfo.com/subcommittee/index.html. Retrieved 2009-07-19.  
  3. ^ Schnakers C; Vanhaudenhuyse A, Giacino J, Ventura M, Boly M, Majerus S, Moonen G and Laureys S (2009). "Diagnostic accuracy of the vegetative and minimally conscious state: Clinical consensus versus standardized neurobehavioral assessment". BMC Neurology 9 (35). http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2377/9/35. Retrieved 2009-11-25.  
  4. ^ (han) (21. November 2009). "Komapatient war 23 Jahre bei Bewusstsein" (in German). Spiegel Online. http://www.spiegel.de/wissenschaft/medizin/0,1518,662627,00.html.  
  5. ^ Kate Connolly (23 Nov. 2009). "Trapped in his own body for 23 years - the coma victim who screamed unheard". The Guardian. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/nov/23/man-trapped-coma-23-years. Retrieved 2009-11-24.  
  6. ^ Allan Hall (23 Nov 2009). "Conscious man 'in coma' for 23 years". Daily Telegraph. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/belgium/6632518/Conscious-man-in-coma-for-23-years.html. Retrieved 2009-11-24.  
  7. ^ http://www.randi.org/site/index.php/swift-blog/783-this-cruel-farce-has-to-stop.html)
  8. ^ http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/34132340/ns/health-health_care
  9. ^ The Rom Houben Tragedy and the Case for Active Euthanasia, Nov. 24, 2009
  10. ^ The Rom Houben Tragedy and the Case for Active Euthanasia, Nov. 24, 2009
  11. ^ Mystery as coma survivor Rom Houben finds voice at his fingertips
  12. ^ De Standaard: 'Rom is geen circusnummer' (Rom is no circus act), Nov. 30, 2009 (in Dutch)
  13. ^ "ASSC William James Prize". Association for the Scientific Study of Consciousness. 2004. http://www.theassc.org/james_prize/past_recipients. Retrieved 2009-07-19.  
  14. ^ "Mind Science Foundation Research Awards in Consciousness". www.mindscience.org. 2006. http://www.mindscience.org/research/index.html. Retrieved 2009-07-19.  
  15. ^ "Young Investigator Awards". Cognitive Neuroscience Society. 2007. http://www.cogneurosociety.org/content/YoungInvestigatorAwards. Retrieved 2009-07-19.  

Selected publications

  • "Diagnostic accuracy of the vegetative and minimally conscious state: Clinical consensus versus standardized neurobehavioral assessment", Schnakers C, Vanhaudenhuyse1 A, Giacino J, Ventura M, Boly M, Majerus S, Moonen G and Laureys S, BMC Neurology 9:35 (2009). Available online
  • The Neurology of Consciousness, ed. Laureys S and Tononi G, Academic Press, New York, 2008 ISBN 0123741688
  • "The changing spectrum of coma", Laureys S, Boly M, Nature Clinical Practice Neurology 4 (2008) 544-546
  • "Perception of pain in the minimally conscious state with PET activation: an observational study", Boly M, Faymonville ME, Schnakers C, Peigneux P, Lambermont B, Phillips C, Lancellotti P, Luxen A, Lamy M, Moonen G, Maquet P, Laureys S, Lancet Neurology, 7 (2008) 1013-1020
  • "Eyes open, brain shut: the vegetative state" Laureys S Scientific American, 4 (2007) 32-37
  • Baseline brain activity fluctuations predict somatosensory perception in humans Boly M, Balteau E, Schnakers C, Degueldre C, Moonen G, Luxen A, Phillips C, Peigneux P, Maquet P, Laureys S Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (USA), 104 (2007) 12187-12192* The boundaries of consciousness, ed. Laureys S, Elsevier, Amsterdam, 2006 ISBN 0444528768
  • "Detecting awareness in the vegetative state", Owen AM, Coleman MR, Boly M, Davis MH, Laureys S, Pickard J Science 313 (2006) 1402
  • "Death, unconsciousness and the brain", Laureys S Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 11 (2005) 899-909
  • "The neural correlate of (un)awareness: lessons from the vegetative state", Laureys S Trends Cogn Sci, 9 (2005) 556-559 * "Brain function in coma, vegetative state, and related disorders", Laureys S, Owen A, Schiff N, Lancet Neurology 3 (2004) 537–46
  • "Brain, conscious experience and the observing self", Baars B, Ramsoy T, Laureys S Trends in Neurosciences 26 (2003) 671-675
  • "Restoration of thalamocortical connectivity after recovery from persistent vegetative state", Laureys S, Faymonville ME, Luxen A, Lamy M, Franck G, Maquet P, Lancet 355 (2000) 1790-1791

External links


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