British and Belgian researchers have found that some people presumed to be in a persistent vegetative state (PVS) may be able to communicate with the assistance of brain scans. In research experiments, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) was used to scan the brain for activity while asking questions of PVS patientes. Signs of consciousness were detected in 4 of the 23 patients studied.
These recent findings are likely to spur more experimentation and stir up controversy over ethics in PVS cases as well as challenges to the fMRI methodology and interpretation of the results.
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