Navigation Links
Scientists find that individuals in vegetative states can learn

Scientists have found that some individuals in the vegetative and minimally conscious states, despite lacking the means of reporting awareness themselves, can learn and thereby demonstrate at least a partial consciousness. Their findings are reported in today's (20 September) online edition of Nature Neuroscience.

It is the first time that scientists have tested whether patients in vegetative and minimally conscious states can learn. By establishing that they can, it is believed that this simple test will enable practitioners to assess the patient's consciousness without the need of imaging.

This study was done as a collaborative effort between the University of Buenos Aires (Argentina), the University of Cambridge (UK) and the Institute of Cognitive Neurology (Argentina). By using classical Pavlonian conditioning, the researchers played a tone immediately prior to blowing air into a patient's eye. After some time training, the patients would start to blink when the tone played but before the air puff to the eye.

This learning requires conscious awareness of the relation between stimuli - the tone precedes and predicts the puff of air to the eye. This type of learning was not seen in the control subjects, volunteers who had been under anaesthesia.

The researchers believe that the fact that these patients can learn associations shows that they can form memories and that they may benefit from rehabilitation.

Lead author Dr Tristan Bekinschtein, from the University of Cambridge's Wolfson Brain Imaging Unit, said: "This test will hopefully become a useful, simple tool to test for consciousness without the need for imaging or instructions. Additionally, this research suggests that if the patient shows learning, then they are likely to recover to some degree."

In 2006, the Cambridge Impaired Consciousness Group at the Wolfson Brain Imaging Unit showed, using functional imaging, showed that patients in vegetative states (as defined by behavioural assessment in the clinic) can in fact be conscious despite being unable to show consistent voluntary movements.


Contact: Genevieve Maul
University of Cambridge

Related biology news :

1. UCLA scientists make paralyzed rats walk again after spinal-cord injury
2. Scientists pinpoint protein link to fat storage
3. Impact of renewable energy on our oceans must be investigated, say scientists
4. UT scientists discover link between protein and lung disease
5. Alert status area in brain discoved by Hebrew University scientists
6. Master gene that switches on disease-fighting cells identified by scientists
7. Scientists seek new emphases in Arctic climate change research
8. Superscanner helps scientists see into the unknown
9. Scientists use microRNAs to track evolutionary history for first time
10. Michigan Tech scientists identify genes linked to Lou Gehrigs disease
11. Scientists discover new genetic variation that contributes to diabetes
Post Your Comments:
(Date:11/17/2015)... Pressure BioSciences, Inc. (OTCQB: PBIO) ("PBI" and ... of broadly enabling, pressure cycling technology ("PCT")-based sample preparation ... it has received gross proceeds of $745,000 from an ... "Offering"), increasing the total amount raised to date in ... are expected in the near future. ...
(Date:11/12/2015)... , Nov. 12, 2015  Arxspan has entered ... MIT and Harvard for use of its ArxLab ... management tools. The partnership will support the institute,s ... and chemical research information internally and with external ... used for managing the Institute,s electronic laboratory notebook, ...
(Date:11/10/2015)... 10, 2015  In this report, the ... of product, type, application, disease indication, and ... report are consumables, services, software. The type ... biomarkers, efficacy biomarkers, and validation biomarkers. The ... diagnostics development, drug discovery and development, personalized ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:11/25/2015)... , Nov. 25, 2015  PharmAthene, Inc. (NYSE ... has adopted a stockholder rights plan (Rights Plan) in ... operating loss carryforwards (NOLs) under Section 382 of the ... --> PharmAthene,s use of its NOLs could ... change" as defined in Section 382 of the Code. ...
(Date:11/25/2015)... CITY , Nov. 25, 2015 /PRNewswire/ - Aeterna ... affirms that its business and prospects remain fundamentally ... , Zoptrex™ (zoptarelin doxorubicin) recently received DSMB recommendation ... to completion following review of the final interim ... Phase 2 Primary Endpoint in men with heavily ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... Malaysia , Nov. 24, 2015  Asia-Pacific ... contract research organisation (CRO) market. The trend of ... in lower margins but higher volume share for ... capacity and scale, however, margins in the CRO ... Organisation (CRO) Market ( ), finds ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... Mass. (PRWEB) , ... November 24, 2015 , ... ... to maintain healthy metabolism. But unless it is bound to proteins, copper is ... of Health (NIH), researchers at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) will conduct a systematic ...
Breaking Biology Technology: