10 Nov '11, 2am
Awareness detected in people in vegetative state
CHICAGO (REUTERS) - Scientists have used a portable device that tracks changes in brain waves to communicate with people in a vegetative state, some of whom have been locked in their bodies for more than a year. In a study published last year in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers showed it was possible to communicate with and detect awareness in people in a vegetative state using functional magnetic resonance imaging or fMRI. The team then tried far less expensive, portable equipment to get a better idea of how many people classified as being in a vegetative state are actually aware of their surroundings. The researchers instructed 16 people in a vegetative state to imagine they were making a fist with their right hand or wiggling their toes, and then measured brain activity while electrodes were attached to their scalp.