Please Stop Calling People “Vegetables”

Brain scans reveal which ‘vegetative’ patients are alert, trapped in bodies

(NBC NEWS) A man who had appeared to have been in a vegetative state for 12 years knew his name and knew where he was, Canadian researchers report.

Three people tested using a special form of MRI called functional magnetic resonance imaging were able to answer simple “yes” or “no” questions, the team at Western University in London, Ontario report.

They say their findings don’t mean everyone in a coma or a persistent vegetative state is conscious, but it should help doctors find out who is and who isn’t .

“We hope to be able to reach patients who are trapped in their bodies,” says Lorina Naci, a researcher specializing in brain imaging techniques for patients with severe brain injury. “We want to give patients some autonomy in their lives.”

Naci’s team came up with a method for determining whether patients are not just hearing sounds, but able to think clearly about what those sounds mean and answer questions.

Other studies have shown that up to 20 percent of patients in various vegetative states can hear and respond on at least some level.

But at least some of the responses seen could be dismissed as simple reflexes, or at best akin to someone in a dream state responding to stimuli.

Naci says her team’s findings show that at least some can respond with clear conscious intent.

“The technique may be useful in establishing basic communication with patients who appear unresponsive to bedside examinations and cannot respond with existing neuroimaging methods,” the team wrote in the Journal of the American Medical Association journal JAMA Neurology.

“Although a clinical vegetative state diagnosis implies lack of consciousness and cognition, this is not necessarily always the case.”

One of the patients, a 38-year-old man in a vegetative state since a car accident 12 years before, knew his name was Steve … READ THE FULL STORY AT NBC NEWS.

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