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September 7, 2006

Groundbreaking Test Reveals Awareness in 'Vegetative' Woman

Topics: The Truth About PVS

From the Washington Post.

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 the most sophisticated technology to try to peer behind the veil of her brain injury for any signs of conscious awareness.

Without any hint she might have a sense 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 like an uninjured person's would. It happened again and again. The doctors got the same result when they repeatedly cued her to picture herself wandering, room to room, through her own home.

"I was absolutely stunned," said Adrian M. Owen, a British neurologist who led the team reporting the case in Friday's issue of the journal Science. "We had no idea whether she would understand our instructions. But this showed that she is aware."

"This is a very important study," said Nicholas D. Schiff, a neurologist at the Weill Cornell Medical College in New York. "It's the first time we've ever seen something like this. It really is kind of shocking."

Read the entire report at Washington Post

Posted by Mary at September 7, 2006 6:27 PM

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