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

US Silent on Psychologists Role in CIA’s Tortures: Doctors
2014-12-20 21:53
Physicians for Human Rights had not received any response from the US Federal Commission to their call to investigate the role of health professionals in CIA’s torture program, Deputy Director of the organization told Sputnik. December 19 (Sputnik) — US government has not responded to calls to prosecute doctors, who participated in CIA torture program, the Deputy Director of Communications for ...
Ziolebrities: Simon Cowell donates £100,000 to Israeli soldiers to please pregnant jewish girlfriend Lauren Silverman
2014-12-20 21:00
Cowell, 54, is also planning a secret trip to Israel soon as he embraces the Jewish faith of Silverman, 36 Gala: Billionaire Haim Saban with Cowell Simon Cowell has publicly donated nearly £100,000 in support of the Israeli army. The X Factor boss pledged the cash to the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces at a US fund-raiser in Beverly Hills. The lavish gala ...
Former Chief Security Officer for NewsCorp: N. Koreans Not Behind Sony Hack, Interview Leak
2014-12-20 2:17
Hemanshu Nigam, a former federal prosecutor and former chief security officer for NewsCorp/Fox studios, says North Korea isn’t behind the Sony Hack. Nigam gave several bullet points for why the hack was likely an inside job. Attack code borrowed from a previous attack on Seoul, that’s why it’s in Korean. Private hackers typically borrow malicious code from other hackers.Nations state attacks follow ...
Sony Fires Back at Obama: Actually We Did Call the White House – Several Times
2014-12-20 2:13
Sony fired back at Obama after the press conference saying they had several conversations with the Obama White House before and after the movie was canceled. Via The Hollywood Reporter: After President Obama criticized Sony for its decision to cancel The Interview's release after theater chains decided not to show the film, the studio has issued a statement elaborating on the move. “The ...
The Bankster International
2014-12-20 1:55
Geopolitical analysis, the art of explaining power relationships through the prism of impersonal geography, can be a helpful tool for observers of the Great Game – but it also has its limitations. A case in point is the renewed US-Russia confrontation. Think tanks and policy insiders easily sell the narrative that from the dark days of the Cold War to ...
More News »