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Doctors Communicate With Vegetative Patients

Epoch Times Staff Created: February 4, 2010 Last Updated: February 4, 2010
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Belgian man Rom Houben and his mother Josephine Nicolaas Houben are pictured at the hospital in Heusden-Zolder, on Nov. 25, 2009. Rom Houben, who is thought to have been in a coma for 23 years, has told of his 'second birth' after doctors realized he was in fact conscious. Medical staff at a hospital in Liege, eastern Belgium, believed Rom Houben had been left in a vegetative state by a serious car accident in 1983, but he was simply paralyzed and unable to communicate. Doctors in the U.K. and Belgium are discovering that vegetative patients are conscious and able to communicate. (Julien Warnand/AFP/Getty Images)

Belgian man Rom Houben and his mother Josephine Nicolaas Houben are pictured at the hospital in Heusden-Zolder, on Nov. 25, 2009. Rom Houben, who is thought to have been in a coma for 23 years, has told of his 'second birth' after doctors realized he was in fact conscious. Medical staff at a hospital in Liege, eastern Belgium, believed Rom Houben had been left in a vegetative state by a serious car accident in 1983, but he was simply paralyzed and unable to communicate. Doctors in the U.K. and Belgium are discovering that vegetative patients are conscious and able to communicate. (Julien Warnand/AFP/Getty Images)

Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) technology, doctors in the U.K. and Belgium are able to read the brain signals of patients in persistent vegetative states (PVS), confirming that these patients still have awareness.

PVS patients show no awareness of self or environment or body control, but have wake and sleep cycles. It was believed that they had no understanding of language, but doctors found that when they asked PVS patients to activate different areas of their brain to indicate yes and no responses, patients were consistently able to do so and answer simple biographical questions correctly.

This finding shows that PVS patients are in fact aware even though they are not able communicate through the usual means.




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Martha Rosenberg