This breakthrough in medical history could change the way we think about consciousness.
Scott Routley, 39, received severe brain injuries as a result of a serious car accident 12 years ago. He was considered uncommunicative. However, in a recent fMRI scan the patient was asked questions and managed to answer.
The medical industry previously believed that when patient came out of a coma and into awake periods, with their eyes open, they have no concept of the world around them. Now science books will need re-writing.
British neuroscientist Professor Adrian Owen believes that Routley was not vegative. On a BBC Panorama programme he said:
“Scott has been able to show he has a conscious, thinking mind,” explained the Professor. “We have scanned him several times and his pattern of brain activity shows he is clearly choosing to answer our questions. We believe he knows who and where he is.”
Owen’s team used the fMRI to identify hidden awareness and open up channels of communication. It’s believed that the scientists can read whether the patient is saying ‘yes’ or ‘no’ as a result of certain brain activities during the scan.
It was previously believed that patients deemed in a ‘vegative state’ had no conscious thought.
Professor Bryan Young, monitored and cared for Routley for a decade: “He had the clinical picture of a typical vegetative patient -– no emotional response, no fixation or following with his eyes,” he said.
The full Panorama programme The Mind Reader: Unlocking My Voice, airs on airs tonight at 10.35pm on BBC1.
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