By: Sheena P.
Patients in vegetative states would not be able to respond to their environment right? Well, this is apparently not the case with one patient. This patient was in a vegetative state, unable to move and speak, but showed signs of awareness. This patient focused on words that were acting like auditory targets. If this trend becomes consistent with other vegetative patients, it could open a world of opportunities with new technology. Scientists at the Medical Research Council Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit and the University of Cambridge used a EEG to measure the electrical activity over the scalp. They tested twenty one vegetative patients and eight healthy volunteers. These participants heard one word a second, over ninety seconds at a time and were asked to respond to each one with a “yes” or “no”. Scientists discovered that one of the vegetative patients was able to focus on the important words that they were being asked to pay attention to. Three minimally conscious patients reacted to novel words but were unable to pay attention to the target word. These findings support the fact that some patients in vegetative or minimally conscious state might be able to respond to certain sounds in their environment. (Read more…)