Can we know whether someone still has conscious awareness? Can we know if someone can understand and if they can receive messages? In this BBC documentary mathematician Marcus de Sautoy explores for evidence to answer this question. His first encounter is with Professor Adrian Owen who is researching the idea of mental imagery to test the conscious mind. In the test, Owen asks the participants who include people in a vegetative state and those not in a vegetative state to imagine themselves playing tennis. The results show that both participants in the vegetative state and those not in the vegetative state have the same activity in the same region of the brain that prepares the body for movement.
Marcus then seeks the research which Doctor Anthony Absalom is conducting. He decides to be a participant in the study that is testing the effects of anesthesia on the brain. However, Marcus wants to see what parts of the brain need to be active in order to be conscious. At the end of the test, the results show that Marcus became less effective imagining himself playing tennis as the anesthesia turned off parts of his brain.
So can we really tell whether some still has conscious awareness? I do not believe that there is enough research shown in the segment to the answer question. The researchers in the segment tested conscious awareness by showing the participants ability to follow directions. My question is if there are any other ways to test conscious awareness? Can involuntary movements or the presents of emotion within a vegetative participant test conscious awareness? The research provided in the documentary gives a platform for more research to be carried out.