Cognition found in vegetative patients?

It is reported by the New York Times that a research group in Belgium is able to communicate with people (or at least one person) in a vegetative state using fMRI. For example, when asked personal questions about one’s life, a patient can respond “yes” by thinking about tennis and thereby activating the motor cortex or by responding “no” by thinking about the layout of his or her home, thereby activating cortex implicated in spatial cognition.

Of the 23 patients in a vegetative state studied, only one showed the ability to correctly answer personal questions (5 out of 6) using this method of activating appropriate brain areas.

The article also alludes to the importance of this study in terms of studying consciousness and ramifications for cases such as the Terri Schiavo case that caught the nation’s attention in the late 90s.

-Posted by Ashley

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  1. I wonder how they would answer the question, “Do you want to die?” 😦

  2. Even if they answered “yes,” would anyone say that they are competent enough to make that decision?

  3. Received this message earlier today via Twitter from a good friend @groundrocket

    the part flipping the yes / no association as a control is interesting – psychologists discover scientific method? 😉

    This is somewhat standard methodology, counterbalancing in a sense. You might also enjoy this technique used to discover implicit biases (IAT).

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