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Neurocareers: Doing The Impossible!

Nov 6, 2022

Research shows that about 40% of patients with disorders of consciousness (DOC) are misdiagnosed: often thought of as unconscious, many are, in fact, either conscious or minimally conscious. Such misdiagnosis severely impairs the treatment and recovery of patients with DOC. However, the field of DOC is rapidly developing. One of the major game-changers for it is neurotechnology.

Meet and greet Dr. Caroline Schnakers - Assistant Director of Research at Casa Colina Hospital in Pomona, California, USA. Dr. Schakers is a world-renown expert in DOC. She redefines this field to offer help and provide hope to patients with DOC and their families. Dr. Schnakers's goal is to support physicians and other clinical personnel involved in the care of patients with DOC so that they can offer their patients the best possible diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment.

In this episode of the Neurocareers podcast, Dr. Schnakers illustrates the DOC spectrum with an example from her practice with DOC patients. Dr. Schnakers also discusses the main misconceptions about the DOC, such as "Sleeping beauty," "There is only coma," and others. She provides insights about using neurotechnology to advance the field of DOC. Last but not least, Dr. Schnakers shares important career advice that can be very helpful to those at the crossroads of choosing their scientific career.

Stay tuned! 

During this episode, you will learn the following:

[00:00] Episode intro and what’s in for you in today’s episode.

[01:42] Meet Caroline Schnakers, Ph.D. from Casa Colina Hospital, Pomona, California, USA.

[02:50] The type of work Dr. Schnakers is doing and her shift from diagnosis to treating the disorder of consciousness.

[06:04] What are disorders of consciousness and the clinical difference between a vegetative and conscious state?

[13:38] What inspired Dr. Schnakers into the disorders of consciousness space, and what has helped her to work there for so many years?

[16:24] The most common misconception around disorders of consciousness.

[20:16] Misdiagnosis of the unconscious state and why it isn’t easy to detect signs of consciousness. 

[23:02] What helped Dr. Schnakers to be such a good specialist in disorders of consciousness

[26:28] The change that is happening in the field of disorders of consciousness and the involvement of neurotechnology in the process

[34:16] What do we know now about patients with disorders of consciousness that we didn’t know ten years ago?

[16:55] The challenges that are becoming more prominent as the field of disorders of consciousness evolves.

[43:34] The common knowledge and technology gap between experts and clinicians in Europe, the States, and other parts of the world.

 [45:18] What was challenging for Dr. Schnakers when doing research and looking for new information in the field?

[48:10] Dr. Schnaker's most unexpected findings throughout her research career of studying patients with disorders of consciousness.

[52:03] Where Dr. Schnakers sees neurotechnology in the next ten years and how it will help clinicians with the diagnosis and treatment of disorders of consciousness.

[54:37] Dr. Schnaker’s plans for her research and the work she is doing.

[56:41] Dr. Schnaker recommends how to get into the path of helping people with disorders of consciousness and neurotechnology.

[59:38] Dr. Schnaker's advice on achieving the impossible in neuroscience and disorders of consciousness fields.

[01:01:53] How to reach out and learn more about Dr. Schnakers.

Notable Quotes

  • It’s difficult to detect signs of consciousness; sometimes, it can misdiagnose the unconscious state.
  • Peer and peer learning and mentorship learning are important in developing your expertise.
  • If a technology applies to severe brain injury, it will also apply to moderate brain injury and all types of brain injury.
  • It’s possible to have a patient that is conscious to some point and not have any signs of consciousness at the bedside.
  • We’re in an evidence-based era, and based on the evidence, you can make the treatment work.
  • Suppose companies are interested in evidence-based, then in the future. In that case, we will be able to have good products for clinicians, and patients will be treated better and earlier when we can do more for their recovery.
  • It’s not always easy but always think out of the box.

About the Podcast Guest

Contact info:

Caroline Schnakers, PhD

Assistant Director, Research Institute, Casa Colina Hospital and Centers for Healthcare 

255 East Bonita Avenue, Pomona, CA 91767

909/596-7733, ext. 3038 • Fax 909/593-0153




Dr. Schnakers's work on Pubmed:

Dr. Schnakers's Book:

Curing Coma Campaign:


About the Podcast and Its Host

The Neurocareers podcast is brought to you by The Institute of Neuroapproaches and its founder - Milena Korostenskaja, Ph.D. (Dr. K) - a neuroscience educator, neuroscience research consultant, and career coach for students and recent graduates in neuroscience and neurotechnologies:

Get in touch with Dr. K. by sending an email:

Schedule a free neuroscience career consultation session with Dr. K. by following this link: