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Brain scan shows vegetative patient answering yes or no questions

Posted in News by Conner Flynn on February 4th, 2010

This raises some interesting issues regarding how we care for those in vegetative states. A new study observed the brain of an unconscious patient responding to yes and no questions just like a normal person. Well, almost. Of 54 test subjects in the New England Journal of Medicine study, one man who was diagnosed as being in a vegetative state five years earlier actually answered yes or no questions. And did so accurately.

The answers came from a brain scan conducted by an MRI machine. Answering “yes” and “no” shows activity in different parts of the brain. For instance the patient was asked if his father’s name was Thomas and the scan showed his brain answering “no.” When asked if his father’s name was Alexander, the scan showed “yes.”