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EEG Finds Consciousness in Patients In Vegetative State

You know how anti death penalty advocates say that if it could proven that an innocent man were executed that America would be so outraged that they'd abolish the death penalty immediately.

Well, this is like that. But different.

Scientists just discovered that patients who had been classified as long being in a "persistent vegetative state" actually weren't. Oops.

New Scientist reports:

Signs of consciousness have been detected in three people previously thought to be in a vegetative state, with the help of a cheap, portable device that can be used at the bedside.

"There's a man here who technically meets all the internationally agreed criteria for being in a vegetative state, yet he can generate 200 responses [to direct commands] with his brain," says Adrian Owen of the University of Western Ontario. "Clearly this guy is not in a true vegetative state. He's probably as conscious as you or I are."

In 2005, Owen's team, used functional MRI to show consciousness in a person who was in a persistent vegetative state, also known as wakeful unconsciousness – where the body still functions but the mind is unresponsive – for the first time. However, fMRI is costly and time-consuming, so his team set about searching for simple and cost-effective solutions for making bedside diagnoses of PVS. Now, they have devised a test that uses the relatively inexpensive and widely available electroencephalogram (EEG).

An EEG uses electrodes attached to the scalp to record electrical activity in the brain.

Owen and his team used an EEG on 16 people thought to be in a PVS and compared the results with 12 healthy controls while they were asked to imagine performing a series of tasks.

Each person was asked to imagine at least four separate actions – either clenching their right fist or wiggling their toes.

In three of the people with PVS, brain regions known to be associated with those tasks lit up with activity, despite physical unresponsiveness. This suggested to the researchers that the subjects were carrying out a complex set of cognitive functions including hearing the command, understanding language, sustaining attention and tapping into working memory.

"It isn't the case that just because somebody doesn't respond they're not conscious," Owen says. "There's a growing body of data now demonstrating that many of these patients aren't what they appear."
This is a great scientific advancement. But it's also horrifying when you consider how many people were absolutely aware of every single moment they were being starved to death. Awful.

Something tells me that this is more scientific advancement that will likely be ignored by many just so the killings can continue. This will become like the ultrasound for adults - a piece of technology that must be hidden because using it will make people think twice about killing.

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Anonymous said...

Free will, the human will is part of the soul endowed by our Creator when two become one and God made all men equal. The human will is in the soul and the soul leaves the body when the body is no longer habitable, when the body starts to decay. Jesus' Body did not decay because death is the wages of sin and Jesus is and was an innocent Man. The same must be said of Mary Christ's Mother by God's creation. By deductive reasoning, the human will, the free will is present while the body is warm and alive. And while there may be no immediate response, the person may be "thinking about it". As an excruciatingly slow thinker, I empathize with every person "thinking about it"

Anonymous said...

This is where atheism has brought us...into deep and horrorfying ignorance of the TRUTH. Our Declaration of Independence tells us all and these principles are the foundation of America. Take it or leave it, it is what it is and you cannot change it. Prisoners and criminals and Obama ought to be made to recite the Declaration of Independence about ten times a day.

Dave said...

There's another wrinkle: this test depends on response to a verbal suggestion. If the patients brain was damaged so that he was rendered deaf he might be classified as PVS when he was still conscious. Err on the side of compassion and there's no moral failing. Whatever happened to "do no harm?"

cowalker said...

Actually it horrifies me to think of leaving a conscious person to live for years with no way of communicating with anyone else. Caregivers may talk to him, and he may imagine responding, but he cannot do so. It would be a good idea to cover this situation in a living will.

enness said...

While that may be an infuriating situation it does not necessarily mean they would rather die...

enness said...

The other interesting thing about the study that I don't see mentioned here is that out of the control group, three healthy people didn't have a measurable brain response, for reasons unknown. (As they say, you just can't make this stuff up...)

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