Conscious or Not? Brain Responses Bring Scientists Closer to Making a Diagnosis in the Brain-Damaged
2012 10 25

From: DiscoverMagazine.com



When a brain-damaged person seems unresponsive, the uncertainty is excruciating. Is the person in a vegetative state, awake but not conscious, or are they minimally conscious, still retaining some shreds of awareness? Scientists can now distinguish between people in vegetative and minimally conscious states by measuring brain waves, a Belgian research team announced at the Society for Neuroscience conference last week, which could lead to a more clear-cut, objective way to make the diagnosis.

The researchers used EEGs, readouts of the brain’s electrical activity, to study how the brains of healthy and brain-damaged people responded to a mild electrical jolt. They then quantified how complex and widespread the brain activity of different patients was, using this complexity measure as, essentially, a gauge of consciousness. In 32 wide-awake, healthy patients, the jolt elicited a widespread flurry of brain activity; two patients with locked-in syndrome, where patients are fully conscious but unable to move or respond, showed a similarly complex response. The jolt produced less complex brain responses in twelve minimally conscious patients. Six vegetative patients showed even less complex brain activation still, on par with what the researchers saw in sleeping subjects and in those under anesthesia.

Consciousness is a difficult thing to pin down, and current methods of determining whether—and to what extent—a brain damaged patient has it are largely subjective, with doctors making judgment calls about whether motions are purposeful or reflexive. The diagnoses can often be wrong, and patients thought to be vegetative have even, on rare occasions, re-awakened after months of unresponsiveness. Last year, the research team showed how the brains of people in vegetative and minimally conscious states responded differently to sound. But those earlier experiments could only distinguish between groups of people, looking at overall trends. The new test is the first to tell the two states apart in individual patients, Melanie Boly, the researcher leading the project, told Nature News, making it useful not just as a scientific measure but as a clinical one, as well.

A diagnostic tool like this one, if further research bears it out, could provide a more objective, reliable measure of consciousness. That would be a huge help to patients’ families, and could affect legal decisions, like whether or not to end life support for a patient with brain damage, that hinge on the diagnosis of consciousness.


Article from: discovermagazine.com








Related Articles


Latest News from our Front Page

Recent Israeli Synagogue Attack, a Possible False Flag?
2014 11 21
Dear Friends - I woke up yesterday morning to see a newspaper lying on the kitchen table with the front page proclaiming that five people were slain in an Israeli synagogue after a so-called "Palestinian attack." Some members of the media said that four people were killed, others said five, so it seems like that there was some confusion (or ...
The Michael Brown Shooting, Race Baiting for Political Power and Militarization of the Police
2014 11 21
From Youtube: The evidence clearly shows that Officer Darren Wilson was justified in shooting Michael Brown, so why is this case being hyped by the mainstream media and the leftist political establishment?
Detekt: A New Malware Detection Tool That Can Expose Illegitimate State Surveillance
2014 11 21
Recent years have seen a boom in the adoption of surveillance technology by governments around the world, including spyware that provides its purchasers the unchecked ability to target remote Internet users’ computers, to read their personal emails, listen in on private audio calls, record keystrokes and passwords, and remotely activate their computer’s camera or microphone. EFF, together with Amnesty International, ...
New UK spy chief says tech giants aid terrorism, privacy not ‘absolute right’
2014 11 21
Robert Hannigan, the new head of GCHQ The new head of Britain’s GCHQ, the UK equivalent of the NSA in the U.S., said he believes privacy is not an absolute right and that tech giants must open themselves up to intelligence agencies. “GCHQ is happy to be part of a mature debate on privacy in the digital age,” Hannigan said. “But privacy ...
LOL: Atheist Feminist Pornographer Used as Moral Authority in T-shirt Row
2014 11 21
Dr. Matt Taylor was thrust into the headlines this last week, largely for his lead role in successfully landing a spacecraft on a comet 300 million miles from earth that travels at a speed of 85,000 mph. In short, Taylor and his colleagues pulled off one of the most amazing achievements in contemporary science and space exploration, and in a ...
More News »