Skip to comments.Trace of Thought Is Found in ‘Vegetative’ Patient
Posted on 02/03/2010 6:50:55 PM PST by Steelfish
Trace of Thought Is Found in Vegetative Patient
BENEDICT CAREY February 3, 2010
He emerged from the car accident alive but alone, there and not there: a young man whose eyes opened yet whose brain seemed shut down. For five years he lay mute and immobile beneath a diagnosis vegetative state that all but ruled out the possibility of thought, much less recovery.
But in recent months at a clinic in Liège, Belgium, the patient, now 29, showed traces of brain activity in response to commands from doctors. Now, according to a new report, he has begun to communicate: in response to simple questions, like Do you have any brothers?, he showed distinct traces of activity on a brain imaging machine that represented either yes or no.
Experts said Wednesday that the finding could alter the way some severe head injuries were diagnosed and could raise troubling ethical questions about whether to consult severely disabled patients on their care.
The new report, posted online by The New England Journal of Medicine, does not suggest that most apparently unresponsive patients can communicate or are likely to recover. The hidden ability displayed by the young accident victim is rare, the study suggested.
Nor does the finding apply to victims of severe oxygen depletion, like Terri Schiavo, the Florida woman who became unresponsive after her heart stopped and who was taken off life support in 2005 during an explosive controversy over patients rights.
Moreover, experts said the new test was not ready for wide use; serious technical challenges remain to be worked out.
(Excerpt) Read more at nytimes.com ...
How did the reporter determine that statement of fact, that it didn't apply to Terri? For he has one secondary fact already glaringly wrong in that one sentence.
Terri wasn't taken off life support -- she was denied water and food. She was dehydrated to death.
I wondered the same thing.
In Terri’s case, too, there was no objective way for anyone, including expert doctors, to know what level of function her brain was achieving. There was no scientific or ethnical basis for starving her to death.
As did I. The cynical me says they had to throw that in there in order to keep a real $H!T storm from arising from this.
They still make it sound as if machines kept Terri alive.
There is one possible technique for determining consciousness, and even perhaps stimulating brain recovery, that is rather ominous in its implications.
Endorphines are chemicals manufactured in the brain that are very potent pain killers. We can only function because with endorphines, most of the time, we can ignore the vast majority of sensations sent to our brains by our nerve endings.
Heroin is very similar to endorphines, so much so, that the brains of heroin users start to produce less endorphines than normal. So when heroin junkies stop taking heroin, they suddenly become hyper sensitive. This is terribly unpleasant, and is called “crawling up the wall”. They get a huge surge of signals in their brain, as they are overwhelmed by sensory input.
In the effort to combat heroin overdose, a chemical was invented called an “endorphine blocker”, that binds with endorphines, or heroin, to stop it from deadening pain and other sensation. Given to a normal person, and they would in short order experience something akin to heroin withdrawl and be in agony.
But if given to a comatose person, who is otherwise unresponsive, something very different might happen. That flood of sensory input going to their brain might punch through to their consciousness, or if not, it might give their brain a tremendous “workout”.
All those neurons firing would agitate the brain, and could have any number of other, unforeseen effects. If their brain was scanned during this time, it might also indicate what parts are not functioning, and if, done repeatedly, it is causing a change in brain function.
it’s too late for Terri.
The part of Terri’s brain that was required for conscious thought had simply died, disintegrated and been replaced with fluid. Though it’s unlikely that this had already happened way back when creepy Michael first insisted that any attempts at therapy be stopped, it was clear before her feeding tube was removed, and confirmed beyond any doubt by the autopsy.
I was personally opposed to the removal of her feeding tube for reasons that were pretty unique to her case (parents/siblings willing and able to care for her at their own expense; only concrete evidence of her wishes being her practice of the Roman Catholic faith; Michael’s claims re her oral statements to the contrary being mere hearsay from a legal standpoint and lacking credibility due to his personal life), not because I imagined that she might actually have any consciousness.
At the time of the Terri Schiavo controversy, a photo of her brain was published in Time Magazine or one of the other of the big three news magazines. According to a medical expert in brain function, there are cases of huge amazement in the medical community with just such seemingly dead brains, including levels of function in parts of the brain taking over for others and function not otherwise expected. Just because part of Terri’s brain looked “empty,” does not prove there was complete non function of the brain. Her behavior and her reaction to people also suggested otherwise.
This was exactly what I was thinking.