Ending up in a vegetative state is a horrible conclusion for some people following traumatic brain injury. It’s not clear what such people experience every minute of their lives, whether they’re aware and thinking, what their wishes are and how they can be made to feel better. Modern technology is beginning to literally help ask these questions directly.
Researchers at the Brain and Mind Institute of the University of Western Ontario used functional MRI (fMRI) to read responses to a yes/no question by visualizing activity the brain. This work is being profiled by the BBC One Panorama program that followed the lives of severely brain injured patients in the UK and Canada for a year, including giving insight into the latest advancements that are helping to bridge a major communication gap.
Here’s video from the BBC showing what may very well be the first time someone in a vegetative state answered another’s question:
More from BBC: Vegetative patient Scott Routley says ‘I’m not in pain’
BBC program page: The Mind Reader: Unlocking My Voice