Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Vegetative Patients Can Communicate

Scott Routley suffered a severe brain injury in a car accident 12 years ago.  He had been diagnosed with a persistent vegetative state.  But Professor Adrian Owen at the Brain and Mind Institute, University of Western Ontario (formerly at Cambridge) recently concluded that Scott was clearly not vegetative.  (BBC News)  

Dr. Owen asked Scott questions while having his brain activity scanned in an fMRI machine.  "Scott has been able to show he has a conscious, thinking mind. We have scanned him several times and his pattern of brain activity shows he is clearly choosing to answer our questions. We believe he knows who and where he is."  It's the first time that an uncommunicative, severely brain-injured patient has been able to give answers clinically relevant to their care.

Tonight, on BBC One, Panorama will broadcast a one-hour special follows a group of severely brain injured patients and reveals the revolutionary efforts made to help them communicate with their families and the outside world.

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