In a new study published in The New England Journal of Medicine, researchers report that a form of brain scanning could be used to determine the consciousness of patients who appear to be in a persistent vegetative state. Using functional magnetic resonance, five patients showed brain activity that indicated awareness and intent, with one patient able to communicate 'yes' and 'no' answers. The findings, all in subjects with traumatic brain injuries, could lead to a test to determine a patient's consciousness, as well as inform a family's decision to continue or end life support.
The study "Willful Modulation of Brain Activity in Disorders of Consciousness,"published in The New England Journal of Medicine
Dr. Allan H. Ropper, author of editorial accompanying study in The New England Journal of Medicine; neurologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston
Dr. Adam Gazzaley, MD, PhD, Neurologist and Director of the Neuroscience Imaging Center at UC San Francisco