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Friday, September 08, 2006

This article seemed to acknowledge all the caveats with the experiment. That doesn't stop the implications from beng disturbing.
'Vegetative' Woman's Brain Shows Surprising Activity

By Rob Stein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, September 8, 2006; Page A01

According to all the tests, the young woman was deep in a "vegetative state" -- completely unresponsive and unaware of her surroundings. But then a team of scientists decided to do an unprecedented experiment, employing sophisticated technology to try to peer behind the veil of her brain injury for any signs of conscious awareness.

Without any hint that she might have a sense of what was happening, the researchers put the woman in a scanner that detects brain activity and told her that in a few minutes they would say the word "tennis," signaling her to imagine she was serving, volleying and chasing down balls. When they did, the neurologists were shocked to see her brain "light up" exactly as an uninjured person's would. It happened again and again. And the doctors got the same result when they repeatedly cued her to picture herself wandering, room to room, through her own home.
Whatever this does to the quality-of-life debate, whichever side proves more capable of co-opting this research to their argument's advantage, imagine the possibility of knowing, scientifically, that the person you're talking around and about is more than likely listening to and processing what you're saying.

Maybe it's time to take a second look at that living will. Most (but not all) people I've ever talked with generate one on the premise that they'll be an utter vegetable, unable to even know what's going on around them. But what if we're not?
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2 comments:

B said...

My mom told me of that when she "coded" a couple of times in the 80's she had a BP of 0/0 and still head everything.

Quality of life note: I never want to be physically "vegitative" and be aware. Get a living will and give it to someone you trust.

Ms. Bizarro said...

They need to find a way to scan brain activity for specific information and decode it. At least the yes/no so that someone in that state can answer whether they want to continue living in that condition or have the plug pulled.