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An Exciting piece of news: patients considered at vegetative States can respond to fMRI imaging

An Exciting piece of news: patients considered at vegetative States can respond to fMRI imaging

In a recent issue of Nature (13 June, 2012), Adrian Owen, a neuro-scientist has published an extremely interesting article entitled, “Neuroscience: the mind reader”. In this article he describes a novel way to use brain scans to communicate with people previously considered to be in vegetative states. At Cambridge Owen and his associates at the University of Liège in Belgium, placed a 24-year old patient #23 into a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) machine and started asking him questions. The patient answered them to the great astonishment of Owen and his team members. This incredible response of the patient convinced the neuro-scientist that said patient was conscious and able to communicate. It was the first time that anyone  reported that someone in a vegetative state had responded to a question. Furthermore, the attending physicians assumed that the part of the brain that functions for perception, memory and intention is permanently damaged in such patients with severe head injury. Now the neuro-scientist has moved to the University of Western Ontario, London, Canada to take this method to the clinic. The University of Western Ontario  has made available at the disposal of Owen a sum of 19.5 million USD to make the “techniques more reliable, cheaper, more accurate and more portable so that he can help some of the hundreds of thousands of people worldwide living in vegetative states.”

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