New tool peeks into brain to measure consciousness
2013-08-15 0:00

From: Daily Republic



When people have a brain injury so severe that they can’t squeeze a loved one’s hand or otherwise respond, there are few good ways to tell if they have any lingering awareness or are in a vegetative state. Now researchers have created a tool to peek inside the brain and measure varying levels of consciousness.

The work reported Wednesday is highly experimental, not ready for bedside use yet — and if it pans out, a big question is how to use it without raising false hope. No one knows what level of consciousness at a certain point after injury really predicts recovery.

But it offers the hope that one day doctors might track consciousness nearly as easily as they check blood pressure.

“Consciousness can grow and shrink,” said Dr. Marcello Massimini, a neurophysiologist at Italy’s University of Milan who led the research to quantify just how much that is happening under different circumstances.

It seems obvious — consciousness fades during deep sleep, and doctors can slip us under with anesthesia. Yet scientists don’t have a good way to measure consciousness, especially when the very ill appear to be unconscious. It’s important to try to distinguish if patients are at least minimally conscious, and not in a vegetative state, because the sooner there’s some sign of awareness, the better the chance of recovery.

Today, doctors check if those patients can do things like blink or move a limb on command, or react to touch or pain. If not, scans of the brain’s electrical activity may offer clues. Scientists even have put seemingly unconscious patients inside MRI scanners and told them to imagine throwing a ball. How the brain reacts can indicate if they’re aware and just can’t show it, what’s called locked-in syndrome. But all these tests have drawbacks.

The new work, reported in the journal Science Translational Medicine, aims for an easier, more objective measure. It’s based on the theory that consciousness depends on the complexity of activity in the brain, how well different regions connect and process information. For example, when you’re deeply asleep, the neighbor’s car alarm may not wake you but your brain still processes that you heard it. When you’re wide awake, it also processes how annoying the alarm is and how often it goes off.

Massimini’s team combined two well-known medical devices. First, a coil delivers a powerful pulse of magnetism that travels through the skull to stimulate the brain, essentially knocking on it to say “wake up.” Then an EEG, which measures brain waves through electrodes attached to the scalp, records the patterns of activity as neurons fire in response.

The final trick: The researchers created a formula to compare the complexity of those resulting brain patterns by “zipping” them, like digital files are compressed so they can be emailed. They called the resulting numerical measurement the PCI, or pertubational complexity index.

The team compared tests from 32 healthy people who were awake, asleep, dreaming or anesthetized, and 20 people with a variety of serious brain injuries. The two patients with locked-in syndrome clearly were aware, scoring nearly as high as awake and healthy people, they reported. The patients diagnosed as being in a vegetative state had scores as low as people rendered unconscious by the most powerful anesthesia. The minimally conscious were somewhere in-between.

The strategy could miss consciousness, so it wouldn’t give doctors enough information for end-of-life decisions, researchers caution.

[...]

Read the full article at: dailyrepublic.com

---

RIC: An interesting reader comment in response to the article:
It sounds more like they are measuring the ability to respond to a stimulus rather than consciousness itself.

The hard problem of consciousness is undetermined and therefore unmeasurable.

We all see the color red and know what part of the spectrum triggers it; however, nobody actually knows what gives us that mental image of red and I don’t know if your red is the same as mine.
(From: Modern Money Theory Now)



Consciousness : Yes or No?














Get Adobe Flash player





Tune into Red Ice Radio:

Scott Onstott - Hour 1 - Explorations in Number, Architecture & Consciousness

Tom Campbell - The Big TOE (Theory of Everything), Consciousness & Reality

Anthony Peake & Tom Campbell - Consciousness Creates Reality

Anthony Peake - Mystery of the Brain, Precognition, Time Dilation & Déjà vu

Peter Russell - The Primacy of Consciousness

Jim Elvidge - Are we Living in a Simulation, a Programmed Reality?

Paul Levy - The War on Consciousness

Marcel Kuijsten - Julian Jaynes, the Bicameral Mind & The Origin of Consciousness

Graham Hancock - Entangled, Supernatural, Shamanism & The Origins of Consciousness






Related Articles
Will We Ever Understand Consciousness? Scientists and Philosophers Debate
Tom Campbell: Consciousness Is The Computer, Reality Is Information
TED: Non-locality of consciousness is forbidden territory?
The War on Consciousness - Graham Hancock’s censored talk at TEDxWhitechapel
The Self: Naturalism, Consciousness, and the First-Person Stance
Ancient Knowledge: Consciousness, Sacred Geometry, Cymatics, Illusion of Reality
The Universal Consciousness - Plants and Animals, Emotions and Pain
Consciousness and All That Jazz
Do these conjoined twins share consciousness?
Signature of consciousness captured in brain scans
Brain scanner ’reads’ people’s dreams - accurately enough to see what they are dreaming about
Secret DARPA Mind Control Project Revealed: Leaked Document
Researchers Try to Improve Math Skills With Electrical Zaps to the Brain


Latest News from our Front Page

Safe spaces, white tears and getting kicked out of a women's group - by two men
2015-07-07 21:37
Lately I've been kicked out of a couple of groups I belong to, for daring to question received wisdom or refusing to go along with the rules of identity politics. For instance, I was thrown out my university women's group -- by two men! -- for questioning an article on Jezebel about "cultural appropriation." They explained that the group was supposed to ...
Ghost rider in the sky: Scientists use lasers to project movie onto clouds
2015-07-07 20:08
A green ghost rider appeared in the sky over the British city of Nottingham when scientists started testing a newly developed projecting device which allows the beaming of moving images directly onto clouds for the first time ever. The image of a galloping horse rider was projected onto the clouds from a distance of 50 meters by a special laser-based projection ...
China’s stock market is crashing, and the Chinese are trying to do the exact same thing America did in 1929
2015-07-07 19:36
‘While European attention is focused on Greece, China is having a serious market meltdown. After exploding earlier in the year because of deregulation, China’s benchmark Shanghai Composite has collapsed a crazy 29% since the highs of early June. China’s other stock markets have had similarly steep falls. Bloomberg notes that the crisis is closely mirroring the 1929 Wall Street crash, which led ...
Oregon Is First State to Charge Drivers for Each Mile They Drive
2015-07-07 19:18
When he's not riding his bicycle, Rep. Earl Blumenauer, an Oregon Democrat, said he's driving a fuel-efficient hybrid, and that's a problem, because it means he's not paying his "fair share" for highway maintenance. Blumenauer says that's why he signed up for OReGO, the nation's first program to charge drivers based on the number of miles they drive. The program launched on ...
Burger King sells gay pride Whopper
2015-07-07 19:06
Burger King has concocted yet another way to have it your way: a gay pride burger. The Proud Whopper, as it's called, comes wrapped in a rainbow colored wrapper with this inscription: "We are all the same inside." It will be sold through Thursday at one Burger King restaurant on San Francisco's Market Street, that was at the heart of the ...
More News »