The Ottumwa Courier

Community News Network

November 5, 2013

Sign of consciousness in 'vegetative state' patient

A patient in a seemingly vegetative state, unable to move or speak, showed signs of attentive awareness that had not been detected before, a new study reveals. This patient could focus on words signaled by the experimenters as auditory targets as successfully as healthy individuals. If this ability can be developed consistently in certain patients who are vegetative, it could open the door to specialized devices in the future and enable them to interact with the outside world.

The research, by scientists at the Medical Research Council Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit and the University of Cambridge, was published last week in the journal Neuroimage: Clinical.

For the study, the researchers used electroencephalography, which noninvasively measures the electrical activity over the scalp, to test 21 patients diagnosed as vegetative or minimally conscious and eight healthy volunteers. Participants heard a series of different words - one word a second over 90 seconds at a time - while being asked to alternatingly attend to either the word "yes" or the word "no," each of which appeared 15 percent of the time. (Some examples of the words used include "moss," "moth," "worm" and "toad.") This was repeated several times over a period of 30 minutes to detect whether the patients were able to attend to the correct target word.

The researchers found that one of the vegetative patients was able to filter out unimportant information and home in on relevant words they were being asked to pay attention to. Using fMRI brain imaging, the scientists also discovered that this patient could follow simple commands to imagine playing tennis. They also found that three other minimally conscious patients reacted to novel but irrelevant words but were unable to selectively pay attention to the target word.

These findings suggest that some patients in a vegetative or minimally conscious state might in fact be able to direct attention to the sounds in the world around them.

Srivas Chennu, a research associate at the University of Cambridge's department of clinical neurosciences, said: "Not only did we find the patient had the ability to pay attention, we also found independent evidence of their ability to follow commands - information which could enable the development of future technology to help patients in a vegetative state communicate with the outside world."

Text Only
Community News Network
  • Victimized by the 'marriage penalty'

    In a few short months, I'll pass the milestone that every little girl dreams of: the day she swears - before family and God, in sickness and in health, all in the name of love - that she's willing to pay a much higher tax rate.

    April 15, 2014

  • Allergies are the real midlife crisis

    One of the biggest mysteries is why the disease comes and goes, and then comes and goes again. People tend to experience intense allergies between the ages of 5 and 16, then get a couple of decades off before the symptoms return in the 30s, only to diminish around retirement age.

    April 15, 2014

  • treadmill-very-fast.jpg Tax deduction for a gym membership?

    April marks another tax season when millions of Americans will deduct expenses related to home ownership, children and education from their annual tax bill. These deductions exist because of their perceived value to society; they encourage behaviors that keep the wheels of the economy turning. So why shouldn't the tax code be revised to reward preventive health?

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • bomb1 VIDEO: A year after marathon bombing, Boston remains strong

    The City of Boston came together Tuesday to honor those who were injured and lost their lives at the Boston Marathon on the one-year anniversary of the bombing. While the day was sure to be emotional, those affected by last year's race are showing they won't let the tragedy keep them down.

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • Google acquires drone maker Titan Aerospace to spread Internet

    Google is adding drones to its fleets of robots and driverless cars.
    The Internet search company said it acquired Titan Aerospace, the maker of high-altitude, solar-powered satellites that provides customer access to data services around the world. Terms of the deal weren't disclosed.

    April 14, 2014

  • E-Cigarettes target youth with festivals, lawmakers say

    The findings, in a survey released Monday by members of Congress, should prod U.S. regulators to curb the industry, the lawmakers said. While e-cigarettes currently are unregulated, the Food and Drug Administration is working on a plan that would extend its tobacco oversight to the products.

    April 14, 2014

  • Search teams will send unmanned sub to look for missing Malaysian airliner

    Teams searching for a missing Malaysian airliner are planning for the first time to send an unmanned submarine into the depths of the Indian Ocean to look for wreckage, an Australian official leading the multi-nation search said Monday.

    April 14, 2014

  • Why Facebook is getting into the banking game

    Who would want to use Facebook as a bank? That's the question that immediately arises from news that the social network intends to get into the electronic money business.

    April 14, 2014

  • Stepping forward: The real Colbert

    Letterman changed the late-night TV game between his run on NBC's "Late Night" and starting the "Late Show" franchise in 1993. And while it's tough to replace a pop-culture icon, Colbert, in terms of pedigree and sense of humor, makes the most sense.

    April 11, 2014

  • Millions of Android phones, tablets vulnerable to Heartbleed bug

    Millions of smartphones and tablets running Google's Android operating system have the Heartbleed software bug, in a sign of how broadly the flaw extends beyond the Web and into consumer devices.

    April 11, 2014

Obituaries
Record
Facebook
AP National