Cambridge: “Some patients in a persistent vegetative state are conscious and able to pay attention”
From the ‘ University of Cambridge arrives a research designed to bring a lot to discuss, according to the results of some patients in a persistent vegetative state would in fact not only aware , but also able to pay attention and perform simple commands. If you are the findings, the study would cast a new light on a condition previously considered mostly irreversible and which over the years have developed many debates pertaining to the sphere of ethics.
The research was conducted by a team from the Medical Research Council Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit and the University of Cambridge and was published in the journal Neurosurgeon: Clinical . The researchers measured the electrical activity of the brain of 21 patients in a permanent vegetative state or minimally conscious and 8 healthy volunteers through a non-invasive procedure, the ‘ electroencephalography , during a test which involved them hear of the number of words . Participants felt a different word per second for 90 seconds, but they were required to pay attention only to the words either “yes” or “no”, which accounted for 15 percent of the words of each session. The whole was repeated several times, for a total of 30 minutes.
From the test, the researchers found that one of the patients declared in a permanent vegetative state, then totally unable to move and speak, he was able to filter the information , recognizing the words to which students were asked to pay attention, just like the healthy volunteers. Through a number of techniques for imaging the brain, British scientists have also discovered that the patient showed not only attention and consciousness, but he was unable even to perform simple commands , such as imagine you’re playing tennis.
The study of the University of Cambridge seems to suggest that some of the patients in a persistent vegetative state are actually able to pay attention to the sounds around them, proving to be aware, despite appearances. This opens the door to new studies, since, if it were possible to make develop in these patients the ability to interact with the outside world , albeit only at the cerebral level, in the future it may produce devices that can enable them to have the most active exchanges.
As explained by Srivas Chennu, one of the researchers of the Department of Clinical Neurosciences of the ‘ University of Cambridge , the information obtained from the study “could make possible the development of technologies to help future patients in a vegetative state to communicate with the outside world. “