This study was exceptionally interesting and I think forces us to rethink our philosophy on the whole issue. I suppose now one could 'ask' the patient what they would prefer.
You could ask a serious of factual yes or no questions to the patient, and map the scan results to the expected answers. With a large enough number of samples, you could achieve such basic communication. Hypothetically, of course.
My first question is whether or not she is actually in a chronic vegetative state or something that merely mimics one, like the condition of the patients presented in Oliver Sack's Awakenings. They were all thought to be completely unconscious of the environment untill the administration of L-dopa allowed them to move and speak again, whereupon it was discovered they always had complete awareness of the environment - they were simply unable to respond to it.
Sacks first suspected they might have some level of consciousness because of a similar, but cruder, brain "scan": the EEG. He saw a sudden spike in an otherwise flat EEG when he happened to speak the patient's name.
I have trouble with the title though:
"Detecting Awareness in the Vegetative State"
Just telling a person in vegetative state to play tennis and then finding a comparison with the brain patterns of healthy volunteers who play tennis is no indication that the person is actually aware of such activities.
Well whatever the situation I take it they're not going to stop at merely one sample patient.
But the person responding on cue to verbal commands in a mental way indicates some level of awareness. Not necessarily complete awareness.
No and I suppose it won't stop with scientific research as well, I presume this is interesting material for those who interrogate professionally as well.
Perhaps in the future not just our luggage will be scanned at airport security
I assume you've heard of lie detectors, right?
I can imagine the check in times if that were to happen.
Yeah, it would be a nightmare if the government decided this was the basis for a means of reading people's thoughts.
This one is also interesting: a sleeping pill that awakens comatose patients:
That's an interesting article, Pit.
In other words, they propose the pill works because much of the unconsciousness is a kind of post traumatic survival mechanism rather than the direct result of damage.
What about this part:
I thought this was confusing, does it mean that he was conscious before taking the pill?
I found that confusing, also.
I haven't read the paper, but this strikes me as an interesting result that should nonetheless be approached with some skepticism. For instance, it may be possible that the brain activity present in both the PVS patient and the healthy controls can occur without conscious awareness. To draw strong conclusions from this study we would need to show that the observed pattern of brain activity is sufficient for conscious imagery to occur. Along these lines, it would be interesting to see if similar patterns of brain activity could be elicited from the same stimulus in subjects whom we would suspect would actually not be aware of any corresponding imagery-- e.g. for sleeping subjects, or subjects who are instructed beforehand to try to suppress any visual imagery after hearing the command.
I think you're right: the fact the PV person's response seems to have been triggered by the outside stimulus is no guarrantee that the patient himself is conscious of the stimulus and his own reaction.
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