Background: Severe motor and intellectual disability (SMID) patients cannot express their feelings with language. Understanding what they are thinking about or how they feel is thus difficult. This study focused on brain responses to hearing their own names to clarify the situation in these patients. Methods: We performed and analyzed electroencephalography (EEG) for six patients with SMID and eleven healthy subjects. All subjects were presented with auditory stimuli including calling the subject's own name (SON) and reading words. EEG was analyzed by time-frequency analysis, event-related spectral perturbation (ERSP) to detect EEG power changes caused by EEG amplitude, and inter-trial coherence (ITC) to investigate phase-locked changes. Results: ERSP results from healthy subjects showed significant theta power increases as a specific response to SON. While we could not identify a similar pattern in the responses of patients with SMID, analysis of ITC revealed that theta phase-locked activity increased in response to SON not only in all healthy subjects, but also in four patients. Discussion: These results indicate that theta phase-locked activity in some patients with SMID was strongly associated with SON, as in healthy subjects. Our study suggests the existence of specific neural markers that signal an attentional shift in patients upon hearing SON.
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