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1 in 5 vegetative patients is conscious. This neuroscientist finds them. | Big Think x Freethink

Big Think x Freethink
At Big Think, we share actionable lessons from the world’s greatest philosophers and doers. This week, we’re partnering with Freethink to bring you amazing fibs of the people and technologies that are shaping our future, from neuroscience breakthroughs to bionics and justice. Catch Freethink’s documentary-style videos right here on our channel this Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
What if vegetative patients are conscious? Neuroscientist Adrian Owen, columnist of Into The Gray Zone and a professor at Western University in Canada, is using fMRI technology to try to reach the people who may still be aware of their surroundings.

Consciousness has traditionally evaluated in inviting cases to react to verbal masteries. Through mentality portrait, Dr Owen and his unit were able to prove that these exams are inadequate, and it’s estimated that 20 percent of vegetative cases are conscious but are physically incapable of communicating it.

“Communication is the thing that really acquires us human, ” says Dr. Owen. “If we can give these patients back the ability to make decisions, I think we can give them back a little piece of their humanity.”

Dr Adrian Owen is a Professor at The Brain and Mind Institute, Western University, Canada and the former Canada Excellence Research Chair in Cognitive Neuroscience and Imaging. His research mixes neuroimaging( MRI and EEG ), with cognitive studies in brain-injured patients and healthy participates. He has devoted the last twenty years pioneering breakthroughs in cognitive neuroscience. Find out more at

Check his latest record Into the Gray Zone: A Neuroscientist Explores the Mysteries of the Brain and the Border Between Life and Death at https :// 3le2QPX

DR. ADRIAN OWEN: Imagine this scenario. You’ve unfortunately had a cruel coincidence. You’re lying in a hospice bed and you’re aware–you’re aware but you’re unable to respond, but the physicians and your relatives don’t know that. You have to lie there, listening to them deciding whether to let you live or die. I can think of good-for-nothing more terrifying.

I’m Dr. Adrian Owen. I’m the author of’ Into the Gray Zone’, a neuroscientist explores their own borders between life and death.

Communication is the heart of what moves us human. It’s the basis of everything. What we’re doing is we’re returning the ability to communicate to some patients who seem to have lost that forever. The vegetative district is often referred to as a regime of wakefulness without awareness. Patients open their looks, they’ll exactly gaze around the room. They’ll have sleeping and waking rounds, but they never demo any evidence of having any awareness.

So, commonly, the acces that we assess consciousness is through command following. We question somebody to do something, say, pinch our hands, and if they do it, you know that they’re intentional. The problem in the vegetative state is that these patients by definition can produce no campaigns. And the issues to I expected is, well, could somebody dictation follow with their brain? It was that idea that pushed us into a brand-new realm of understanding this patient population. When a part of your psyche is involved in generating a believe or performing an action, it burns energy in the form of glucose, and it’s replenished through blood spurt. As blood pours to that part of the mentality, we’re able to see that with the fMRI scanner.

I foresee one of the key insights was the realization that we could simply get somebody to lie in the scanner and imagine something and, based on the pattern of ability task, we will be able to work out what it is they were thinking. We had to find something that produces really a fairly distinct structure of activity that was more or less the same for everybody. So, we came up with two tasks. One project, imagine playing tennis, raises the actions of the premotor cortex in almost every healthy person we tried this in. A different assignment, thinking about moving from office to room in your live, creates an entirely different pattern of intelligence undertaking; especially, it involves a part of the brain known as the parahippocampal gyrus. And again, it’s very consistent across different people.

So, we realized that we could use this as a simple mechanism for inviting yes or no questions. We could say, well, I’m going to ask you a question. If the answer is yes, imagine playing tennis. If the answer is no, imagine thinking about moving through the apartments of your home. I can still remember exactly what it felt like the first time we assured individual patients that we thought was in a vegetative mood initiate their brain…

Read the full record at https :// videos/ neuroscience-vegetative-consciousness

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