Are you still there?
The question of whether someone in a vegetative state still has conscious awareness is something that has plagues us for a very long time. If we were able to find a reliable way to diagnose whether these patients have awareness or not, it could be life changing. These patients can fall into two different stages: persistent vegetative state, when the patient is in the vegetative state for longer than 4 weeks, or permanent vegetative state, when the condition persists for longer than a year. Once patients reach this permanent stage, there is very little hope for recovery and families are left with a really hard decision: do they continue to keep their loved ones on life support? In the BBC video, The Secret You, Adrian Owen attempts to possibly make the answer to this question a little easier. Since conscious awareness can currently only be tested by making a conscious decision to do something (which patients in a vegetative state cannot do) he's asking the patients to IMAGINE doing something. In the video he asks patients to imagine playing tennis. He then analyzes if and what brain regions are being activated compared to a healthy patient using an fMRI. While I think that there really isn't enough testing to prove that this is a full proof strategy, it's definitely really promising, and a step in the right direction.
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