I investigate brain function in severely brain-injured patients. A substantial number of patients who survive severe brain injury progress from coma to the Vegetative State (VS). They appear to be awake, but show no behavioral signs of awareness of themselves, or of their environment in repeated clinical examinations. However, recent neuroimaging research shows that some VS patients can respond to commands by willfully modulating their brain activity according to instruction. Indeed, we are now only starting to scratch the surface in understanding the extent of preserved mental life in these patients.

As a postdoctoral fellow in the Owen lab, I develop novel neuroimaging techniques that assess residual cognition, conscious awareness, and communication in VS and other patients with disorders of consciousness. These are active and passive tests for mapping out sensory (audition, vision) and higher-order brain functions (selective attention, executive function) in these patients. In collaboration with the Rotman Institute of Philosophy, my work also explores the ethical implications of using neuroimaging to detect conscious awareness and communicate with patients who are misdiagnosed as VS.

My overarching aim is to offer new insights in the diagnosis and treatment of patients with disorders of consciousness that may improve the practice of medicine and standard of care for this patient group.



Owen, A. M., Naci, L. Decoding thoughts in disorders of consciousness. In press.

Peterson, A., Cruse, D., Naci, L., Weijer, L., Owen, M. A. Risk, Diagnostic Error, and The Clinical Science of Consciousness. NeuroImage: Clinical. 2015; 7: 588–597Download

Naci, L., Taylor, K. I., Cusack, I., Tyler, L. K. (2015) Are the senses enough for sense? Early high-level feedback shapes our comprehension of multisensory objects. In S. Zhuanghua and H. J. Müller (Eds.) Multisensory perception and action: psychophysics, neural mechanisms, and applications. eBook. Frontiers Research Topics.

Graham, M., Weijer, C., Cruse, D.,Fernandez-Espejo, D., Gofton, T., Gonzalez-Lara, L., Lazosky, A., Naci, L., Norton, L., Peterson, A., Speechley, N. K., Young,B.,, Owen, M. A. An Ethics of Welfare for Behaviourally Non-responsive Patients with Covert Awareness. AJOB Neuroscience In Press.

MacDonald, A., Naci, L., MacDonald, P., Owen, A. M. Anesthesia and neuroimaging: Investigating the neural correlates of unconsciousness. TICS. 2015;19(2): 100–107Download

Naci, L., Cusack, R., Anello, M., Owen, A. M. A common neural code for similar conscious experiences in different individuals. PNAS. 2014;111(39):14277–82Download Featured on MacleansScience, and Nature.

Owen, A. M., Naci, L. Decoding thoughts in behaviourally non-responsive patients. Duke University Press. In press.

Peterson, A., Norton, L., Naci, L., Owen, A. M., Weijer, C. Toward a Science of Brain Death. Am J Bioeth. 2014;14(8):29-31. Download

Weijer, C., Peterson, P., Webster, F., Graham, M., Cruse, D., Fernández-Espejo, D., Gofton, T., Gonzalez-Lara, L. E., Lazosky, A., Naci, L., Norton, L., Speechley, K., Young B., Owen, A. M. Ethics of neuroimaging after serious brain injury. BMC Medical Ethics 2014; 15, 41. Download

Naci, L., Owen, A. M. Making every word count for vegetative patients. JAMA Neurology. 2013; 70(10), 1235-41. Download or Read it for free at the Journal of the American Medical Association. INTERNATIONAL MEDIA COVERAGE.

Guger, C., Noirhomme, Q., Naci, L., Real, R., Lugo, Z., Veser, S., Sorger, B., Quitadamo, L., Lesenfants, D., Risetti, M., Formisano, R., Toppi, J., Astolfi, L., Emmerling, T., Erlbeck, H., Monti, M. M., Kotchoubey, B., Bianchi, L., Mattia, D., Goebel, R., Owen, A. M., Pellas, F., Müller-Putz, G., Kübler, A. Brain-computer interfaces for coma assessment and communication. Emerging Theory and Practice in Neuroprosthetics; ed. Ganesh R Naik, IGIGLOBAL Press 2013.

Naci, L., Cusack, R., Jia, Z., V., Owen, M. A. The brain’s silent messenger – using selective attention to decode human thought for brain-based communication. J Neurosci 2013; 33(22), 9385–9393. DownloadFeatured on PSYCHOLOGY PROGRESS.

Peterson, A., Naci, L., Weijer, C., Owen A. M. A principled argument, but not a practical one. AJOB Neuroscience 2013; 4(1), 52–53. Download

Peterson, A., Naci, L., Cruse, C., Fernández-Espejo, E., Graham, M., Weijer, C., Owen, A. O. Assessing decision making capacity in the disorder of consciousness patient. AJOB Neuroscience 2013; 4(4), 3-14. Download

Graham, M., Weijer, C., Peterson, A., Naci, L., Cruse, C., Fernández-Espejo, E., Owen, A. O. Acknowledging awareness: informing families of individual research results for patients in the vegetative state. J Med Ethics. Published Online First: [please include 30/07/2014] doi:10.1136/medethics-2014-102078. Download

Naci, L., Monti, M. M., Cruse, D., Sorger, B., Rainer, G., A., Kotchoubey, B., Kubler. A,  Owen, A. M. Brain computer interfaces for communication with non-responsive patients. Ann Neurol 2012; 72(3), 312–23.  Download

Naci, L., Cusack, R., Taylor, K., Tyler, L. K. Are the senses enough for sense? Recurrent high-level feedback shapes our comprehension of multisensory objects. Front Integr Neurosci 2012Download

Cusack, R., Veldsman, M., Naci, L., Mitchell, D. J., Linke, A. Seeing different objects in different ways: measuring ventral visual tuning to sensory and semantic features with dynamically adaptive imaging. Hum Brain Mapp 2012; 33(2), 387–97. Download

Covington, M., He, C., Brown, C., NaciL., Brown, J. How complex is that sentence? A proposed revision of the Rosenberg and Abbeduto D-Level scale. Research Report, 2006. Artificial Intelligence Center, University of Georgia. Download

Covington, M., He, C., Brown, C., Naci, L., McClain, T., Fjordbak, B., Semple, J., Brown, J. Schizophrenia and the structure of language: The linguist’s view. Schizophrenia Research 2005; 77(1), 85–98.

Naci, L. Software to measure rambling, cognitive difficulty and degree expression in schizophrenic speech. Artificial Intelligence Center, University of Georgia. Download