Familiar auditory sensory training in chronic traumatic brain injury: a case study

Emily Galassi Sullivan*, Ann Guernon, Brett Blabas, Amy A. Herrold, Theresa L.B. Pape

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Purpose: The evaluation and treatment for patients with prolonged periods of seriously impaired consciousness following traumatic brain injury (TBI), such as a vegetative or minimally conscious state, poses considerable challenges, particularly in the chronic phases of recovery. Method: This blinded crossover study explored the effects of familiar auditory sensory training (FAST) compared with a sham stimulation in a patient seven years post severe TBI. Baseline data were collected over 4 weeks to account for variability in status with neurobehavioral measures, including the Disorders of Consciousness scale (DOCS), Coma Near Coma scale (CNC), and Consciousness Screening Algorithm. Pre-stimulation neurophysiological assessments were completed as well, namely Brainstem Auditory Evoked Potentials (BAEP) and Somatosensory Evoked Potentials (SSEP). Results: Results revealed that a significant improvement in the DOCS neurobehavioral findings after FAST, which was not maintained during the sham. BAEP findings also improved with maintenance of these improvements following sham stimulation as evidenced by repeat testing. Conclusions: The results emphasize the importance for continued evaluation and treatment of individuals in chronic states of seriously impaired consciousness with a variety of tools. Further study of auditory stimulation as a passive treatment paradigm for this population is warranted.Implications for Rehabilitation Clinicians should be equipped with treatment options to enhance neurobehavioral improvements when traditional treatment methods fail to deliver or maintain functional behavioral changes. Routine assessment is crucial to detect subtle changes in neurobehavioral function even in chronic states of disordered consciousness and determine potential preserved cognitive abilities that may not be evident due to unreliable motor responses given motoric impairments. Familiar Auditory Stimulation Training (FAST) is an ideal passive stimulation that can be supplied by families, allied health clinicians and nursing staff of all levels.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)945-951
Number of pages7
JournalDisability and Rehabilitation
Issue number8
StatePublished - Apr 10 2018


  • Brain injury
  • comatose
  • familiar voice stimulation
  • minimally conscious
  • passive sensory stimulation
  • unresponsive wakefulness syndrome
  • vegetative state

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Rehabilitation

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