Language Processing After Trauma

A study of recovery from severe traumatic brain injury conducted between the University of Birmingham and the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham.

What question will this study answer?

We want to know if the way a person's brain responds to speech in the early days after a severe brain injury will help to predict how well they will recover from that injury.

Why are we conducting this study?

Each day, ten individuals across the United Kingdom enter a coma as a result of a blow to the head (also known as a traumatic brain injury, or TBI). Patients in coma are unresponsive to external stimulation and breathe with support from a mechanical ventilator. A significant proportion of coma survivors will develop a prolonged disorder of consciousness (PDOC), such as the vegetative state, in which they appear to be awake but show no signs of being aware of themselves or of their environments. However, if a patient with a PDOC is able to move in response to verbal commands (e.g. “Give me a thumbs-up”) they are considered to be at least minimally conscious. Once this ability has been identified, rehabilitation can focus on training the individual to use this action to communicate (e.g. “Thumbs-up for yes”).


More accurate methods for predicting the level of recovery after coma are required. Electroencephalography, or EEG, is a portable form of brain-imaging that records the tiny electrical signals generated by the brain via a series of electrodes placed on the scalp. By measuring the brain’s response to external stimuli, it may be possible to improve the accuracy of prognosis in coma (i.e. predicted level of recovery).


We will test the predictive power of EEG responses to speech in a group of post-traumatic patients recovering from coma who do not immediately regain consciousness after withdrawal of sedation. During the year after this assessment, we will determine each patient’s level of recovery through interviews and, in some cases, a further EEG assessment and multiple behavioural assessments. The more accurate methods of prognosis that come from this research will result in more appropriate provision of limited rehabilitation resources post-coma, thereby reducing healthcare costs.

When is this study running?

LPAT began recruiting participants on 9th April 2018 and will run for approximately 2-years.

What are the results of the study?

So that our participants, their families, and the general public can have access to the results of our study, we will publish a summary of the results on this webpage when all data has been collected and analysed in the summer of 2020. We will also publish the data and results for access by researchers and clinicians across the world, and will list these publications on this website.

How can I find out more information?

If you would like more information about the study, then please get in contact with us here.

Please reload