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How some patients who appear to be in a vegetative state remain conscious

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Despite showing no behavioral signs that they are aware of anything, some patients diagnosed as being in a vegetative state are able to remain conscious because the thalamus in their brain is still intact, even though its connection to the motor cortex (which controls our voluntary movements) is severely damaged, according to a University of Birmingham report (19 October 2015):

Dr Davinia Fernández-Espejo, from the University of Birmingham, explained, “A number of patients who appear to be in a vegetative state are actually aware of themselves and their surroundings, able to comprehend the world around them, create memories and imagine events as with any other person.”…

“In highlighting damage to the pathways that physically connect the thalamus, one of the hubs of consciousness if you will, and the motor cortex, which drives our voluntary muscular activity, as the reason behind the dissociation we have provided an important explanation”….

Dr Fernández-Espejo added, “The ultimate aim is to use this information in targeted therapies that can drastically improve the quality of life of patients. For example, with the advances being made in assistive technology, if we can help a patient to regain even limited movement in one finger it opens up so many possibilities for communication and control of their environment.”

Sadly, there are some philosophers who think that the lives of people in a vegetative state are not worth living. Had we been living in a culture in which the views of these philosophers held sway, would this research have been done at all? I doubt it. We’d probably never get to even hear about PVS patients who regained consciousness after a period of years (12 years in one case): the news would get swept under the rug.

Read more about this exciting breakthrough here and here.

Health professionals might find it impracticable, EvilSnack, but it should certainly be meditated upon all the time by those dealing with people in putative, vegetative states. Axel
This question shouldn't even need to be asked. It's trivial. All of us are conscious and locked-in for part of each day. During REM sleep. Muscles disconnected except for an occasional twitch, senses disconnected except for the 'emergency circuits' from the ears. In fact we're more locked-in than the "vegetative" patient. polistra
Shouldn't the headline read, "How some patients who remain conscious appear to be in a vegetative state"? EvilSnack
This reminds me of the movie "Awakenings". In this "based upon a true story" movie, people were being wakened from a "vegetative state", only to report that they were fully conscious in their frozenness. bFast
As long as the soul is in the body then nothing has changed except wiring issues. Vegetative concepts come from a world denying the soul and so seeing people as stages of mental ability. so low stage equals carrots. All that happens is the memory is interfered with. The person is still there and thus can revive. Not grow out of vegy stage but simply revive. Awake. Nobody left or was diminished. its a myth. Robert Byers
Vincent, it's also time to LOSE the "leprosy" status that surrounds dementia! As a regular visitor to a retirement home, I often deal with people with varying types of dementia. It is a disease like any other. The brain, like the heart or the left leg, is always trying to heal from an injury or a disease. So the person has good times and bad times. If they are old, they will not heal very fast, and maybe not very much or for very long. But the attempt is always happening, until the nurse comes to cover the person's face. People with dementia often just like to be surrounded by other people, smiling and doing things. One need not have a theory or an opinion. One day, God takes what he wants and nature takes the rest. See: Is dementia a fate worse than death? No, just a walk through phases of life we don’t understand. http://www.mercatornet.com/articles/view/is-dementia-a-fate-worse-than-death/16872 News

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