The mismatch negativity (MMN) is considered the electrophysiological change-detection response of the brain, and therefore a valuable clinical tool for monitoring functional changes associated with return to consciousness after severe brain injury. Using an auditory multi-deviant oddball paradigm, we tracked auditory MMN responses in seventeen healthy controls over a 12-h period, and in three comatose patients assessed over 24 h at two time points. We investigated whether the MMN responses show fluctuations in detectability over time in full conscious awareness, or whether such fluctuations are rather a feature of coma. Three methods of analysis were utilized to determine whether the MMN and subsequent event-related potential (ERP) components could be identified: traditional visual analysis, permutation
t-test, and Bayesian analysis. The results showed that the MMN responses elicited to the duration deviant-stimuli are elicited and reliably detected over the course of several hours in healthy controls, at both group and single-subject levels. Preliminary findings in three comatose patients provide further evidence that the MMN is often present in coma, varying within a single patient from easily detectable to undetectable at different times. This highlights the fact that regular and repeated assessments are extremely important when using MMN as a neurophysiological predictor of coma emergence.