Francqui Prize: A researcher from Liege wins02/06/2017

Steven Laureys, a neurologist at ULg, will be awarded the Francqui Prize on 13 June at the Palais des Académies in Brussels for his work on coma and other consciousness disorders. This award, known as the "Belgian Nobel prize", rewards researchers under 50 years of age for their work and aims to encourage them for their future. This year, biological & medical sciences will be centre stage.

At the head of the Coma Science Group, Steven Laureys and his research group on coma and other consciousness disorders have, through their work, offered a greater understanding of the state of consciousness of patients who are in a "vegetative" or similar state.

The study carried out by Steven Laureys and his team shows that almost 40% of the patients concerned are conscious: they feel pain and emotions, although they are unable to express them. This finding is based on several approaches, such as behavioural evaluation, an analysis of electrical activities in the body or functional neuro-imagery (PETscan and MRI).

Thanks to their work, they have succeeded in identifying two networks of consciousness in the human brain: an external one working with the environment and another internal one based on the actual person. This discovery now provides elements for a better understanding of the neuronal network, but also for a better evaluation of the chances of recovery.

Steven Laureys is a clinical professor at the CHU and a researcher for the Fund for Scientific Research (FRS -FNRS). He is also someone who believes in the importance of proximity with patients. With his laboratory located at GIGA, within the CHU, he is able to devote himself to his patients on a daily basis.

Since 1933, the Franqui Prize has been awarded annually in one of the following three branches of science: biological & medical sciences, exact sciences and human sciences. It comes from the Foundation of the same name, created by Emile Francqui and the former American President Herbert Hoover, in order to support the development of research and teaching in Belgium. Apart from recognition, the prize winners receive €250,000 as well as a chance to meet the King who presents the prize himself.

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