Brain Scan Shows Vegetative Patient Responding To Yes-or-No Questions

When a conscious person answers a yes or no question, certain parts of the brain become active. A new medical study revealed that people thought to be in a vegetative state demonstrate the same brain response, even if they can't express themselves:

In the current experiment, the researchers found that three other patients identified as vegetative showed similar responses. To open a channel of communication, they instructed one of them, the 29-year-old man, to associate thoughts about tennis with “yes” and thoughts about being in his house with “no.”

They then asked questions, repeating the procedure numerous times, switching the associations — tennis with yes, then with no — to make sure the patient was in fact making conscious choices. The researchers had previously tested the technique in healthy volunteers.

“We asked basic biographical questions, like ‘Is your father’s name Thomas?’ and ‘Have you ever been to the United States?’ ” said Adrian M. Owen, a neuroscientist at the Medical Research Council in Cambridge, England, who developed the method and was a co-author of the paper. “We then checked whether the answers were correct. They were.”


Video at the link.

Link via Popular Science | Image: New York Times

Previously on Neatorama:
Man Actually Conscious Throughout Two Decades of "Coma"
Is This Man Fully Alert and Communicating - or Not?

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Excellent. Being able to answer yes or no questions means a patient would be able to let others know their wishes about being kept on life support or allowed to die.

At least, some would be able to communicate their wishes--I'm sure that brains atrophied to different degrees and in different regions would prevent communication.
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