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New Test Could Determine Consciousness in Vegetative Patients

By: Katie Cordrey - Published: May 22, 2011 • References: newscientist and utopianist
There is a new test that may help determine whether consciousness in vegetative patients exists. By monitoring the way brains respond to sounds played through headphones, researchers are able to determine whether a person is in a minimally conscious state or a truly vegetative state. Vegetative patients have a response about half that of MCS patients or healthy control groups.

New Scientist reports that according to Mélanie Boly from the University of Liège in Belgium, determining the level of consciousness in vegetative patients is currently time-consuming and subjective, and misdiagnoses are common. As many as 40 percent of those thought to be in a vegetative state may actually be conscious on some level. The new testing method may be able to provide peace of mind to those charged with making critical decisions about the long-term care of their loved ones.