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

France delivered arms to Syrian rebels, Hollande confirms
2014 08 22
President Francois Hollande said on Thursday that France had delivered weapons to rebels battling the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad “a few months ago.” The deliveries took place “a few months ago, when the Syrian rebels had to face both the armies of the dictator Bashar al-Assad and this terrorist group Islamic State,” Hollande told reporters on a tour of the ...
Brooklyn DA exposes hidden Child Sexual Abuse in the Orthodox Jewish Community
2014 08 22
Comment: We all know that the sex abuse cases within the Catholic church have been plastered all over the media in the last 6-8 years, but when do you ever hear about the rapes, sexual molestation and child sex abuse cases within the jewish orthodox community? Is the media helping to cover it? Will they give the same treatment of ...
California’s Economic Collision Course: Immigration and Water
2014 08 22
You have heard it before: “As California goes, so goes the nation.” If that is the case, the national economy will be harmed for decades to come because of California’s misplaced priorities today. Indeed, by emphasizing high-speed rail over water and failing to deal with its debt crisis, California poses a long-term threat to our national economy and ...
ISIS offered to swap Foley for ’Lady Al Qaeda’ - neuroscientist MIT-graduate
2014 08 21
An MIT-educated neuroscientist terrorist known as ’Lady al Qaeda’ was named on a ’laundry list’ of demands from ISIS captors holding James Foley named, it was revealed today. Petite mother-of-three Aafia Siddiqui is currently serving 86 years in a Texas jail after being arrested with plans for a ’mass casualty attack’ in the US, including infecting people with Ebola and a ...
James Foley beheaded - Financed by USA
2014 08 21
John McCain is a traitorous piece of garbage. Last year McCain worked with the "Syrian Emergency Task Force" to help overthrow the Syrian government. Investigative work (see the detailed article below) revealed that this task force was just a front organization for AIPAC. McCain met with known terrorists, including the infamous al-Qaeda. Yeah, the terrorist organization that was behind 9/11 received aid ...
More News »