Patients in a Vegetative State Might be Capable of Recognizing People They Care about


I read something extremely intriguing today, and I wanted to share it with you. It seems that recent research has been focusing on trying to understand whether patients in a vegetative state are capable of recognizing loved ones.

The way in which they attempted to find this out was by showing them pictures of people they are close to, and by measuring their brain activity. The result? When showed photographs of loved ones, parts of the brain involved in the processing of emotion became active.

This is a transaxial slice of the brain of a 5...
This is a transaxial slice of the brain of a 56 year old patient (male) taken with positron emission tomography (PET). The injected dose have been 282 MBq of 18F-FDG and the image was generated from a 20 minutes measurement with an ECAT Exact HR+ PET Scanner. Red areas show more accumulated tracer substance (18F-FDG) and blue areas are regions where low to no tracer have been accumulated. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Another similar experiment was done on one patient in a vegetative state that was asked to think of her parents’ face. The patient experienced an increase in the activity of areas of the brain connected to the processing of faces and of emotions.

These are amazing findings, though I am a little skeptical about them, particularly because the last experiment (done by asking the patient to think of something) speaks of increased activity in the brain of one patient only. One isn’t exactly the kind of number that would support an entire hypothesis when it comes to evidence for a conclusion.

However, I can’t deny that these findings are a gleam of hope in the world of families who have a member in a vegetative state. The very idea that perhaps the person lying in bed can actually recognize them is absolutely stunning and encouraging.

If you have any thoughts on the subject, please share them with me! I hope you find the topic as fascinating as I do 🙂

If you want to read the original article, click here.

And, on a different note, I wish you all a wonderful New Year!