New Way to Examine Consciousness in Comatose Patients

There are a lot of ethical issues about what to do with a person in a vegetative state in a hospital, and sometimes pulling the plug (so to speak) isn’t the best course of action. Thanks to some smart researchers we can now tell which patients are still thinking and which patients have no activity in their brain.

“You spend a week with one of these patients and at no point does it seem at all they know what you are saying when you are talking to them. Then you do this experiment and find it’s the exact opposite — they do know what’s going on,” said Damian Cruse, a postdoctoral neuroscientist at the University of Western Ontario in Canada who helped conduct the research. “That’s quite a profound feeling.”

The results and similar findings could also provide crucial insights into human consciousness — one of the most perplexing scientific puzzles — and lead to ways to better provide diagnoses and possibly rehabilitate brain-injury patients, the researchers said.

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