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Vegetative State Man 'Talks' By Brain Scan

Soulskill posted about a year and a half ago | from the fleet-captain-pike-would-be-proud dept.

Science 202

c0lo writes "'Severely brain-injured Scott Routley hasn't spoken in 12 years. None of his physical assessments since then have shown any sign of awareness, or ability to communicate, thus being diagnosed as vegetative (vegetative patients emerge from a coma into a condition where they have periods awake, with their eyes open, but have no perception of themselves or the outside world).' Scott Routley was asked questions while having his brain activity scanned in an fMRI machine. British neuroscientist Prof Adrian Owen said Mr Routley was clearly not vegetative. 'Scott has been able to show he has a conscious, thinking mind. We have scanned him several times and his pattern of brain activity shows he is clearly choosing to answer our questions. We believe he knows who and where he is.' As a consequence, medical textbooks would need to be updated to include Prof Owen's techniques, because only observational assessments (as opposed to using mind-readers) of Mr. Routley have continued to suggest he is vegetative. Functional MRI machines are expensive (up to $2 million), but it's quite possible that a portable high-end EEG machine, costing about $75,000, can be used at a patient's bedside. Phillip K. Dick's world is one step closer."

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202 comments

Happy Hump-day from The Golden Girls! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41985763)

Thank you for being a friend
Traveled down the road and back again
Your heart is true, you're a pal and a cosmonaut.

And if you threw a party
Invited everyone you knew
You would see the biggest gift would be from me
And the card attached would say, thank you for being a friend.

Re:Happy Hump-day from The Golden Girls! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41986229)

It's confidant, dumbshit.

Re:Happy Hump-day from The Golden Girls! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41986671)

No, it's confidante.
Please, if you're going to be uncouth, be correct.

Re:Happy Hump-day from The Golden Girls! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41986861)

is this always the same ac all three posts every time or is it really the same exact spontaneous posts from three random people??

Big money Big women big fun (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41985787)

That's some expensive EEG machine. REALLY EXPENSIVE.

Must be boring. (1)

viperidaenz (2515578) | about a year and a half ago | (#41985829)

Must be pretty boring to be conscious but unable to do anything at all.

Re:Must be boring. (2)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about a year and a half ago | (#41985925)

I'm pretty sure that I read a book about that, and the title was "I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream"...

Re:Must be boring. (2)

Quiet_Desperation (858215) | about a year and a half ago | (#41985955)

That was a computer, though, wasn't it? Harlan Ellison? Maybe I'm thinking of something else.

The story depressed the hell out of me, I and feel really bad for the guy. I'd be trying to wire him up to the TV remote or a web browser next just so he can get some entertainment.

Re:Must be boring. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41986037)

Set me up with a keyboard, mouse, and computer with an internet connection. That's all I need right there.

Re:Must be boring. (1)

viperidaenz (2515578) | about a year and a half ago | (#41986321)

.... you're forgetting the method to control said computer, since these people have no control over any part of their body. Not sure what you'd do with a keyboard and mouse, look longingly at them provided they're placed in your field of vision, if you can still see and your eyes are open?

Re:Must be boring. (1)

mikael (484) | about a year and a half ago | (#41986535)

Wouldn't one of those Emotiv EEG (http://emotiv.com/) headsets do the job? It would be insane to not let him communicate in some way now that they know he is conscious.

Re:Must be boring. (1)

TheLink (130905) | about a year and a half ago | (#41987199)

Yeah they might need a bit more precision and low latency control for certain games.

But don't underestimate what can be done with a few "buttons" as long as the latency is low enough:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lx24B6RwekQ [youtube.com]
Broly (guying playing with his face) is playing Chun-Li vs Daigo (one of the top SF players in the world).

Seems he's not the only person: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wrfwSinBUkY [youtube.com]

Re:Must be boring. (3)

todrules (882424) | about a year and a half ago | (#41986227)

Also a song - "One," by Metallica.

Re:Must be boring. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41986489)

That's not original, it's just a version of Johnny Got His Gun [wikipedia.org] . They even use footage from the film adaptation in the video.

Re:Must be boring. (1)

Dishevel (1105119) | about a year and a half ago | (#41986555)

Yes they were inspired by the Movie.
But unlike a dickless AC it is original.
Them movie does not have the lyrics nor the music in it.
Not even close.

Re:Must be boring. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41986563)

I can't remember anything
Can't tell if this is true or dream
Deep down inside I feel to scream
This terrible silence stops me

Now that the war is through with me
I'm waking up, I cannot see
That there is not much left of me
Nothing is real but pain now

Hold my breath as I wish for death
Oh please God, wake me

Back in the womb it's much too real
In pumps life that I must feel
But can't look forward to reveal
Look to the time when I'll live

Fed through the tube that sticks in me
Just like a wartime novelty
Tied to machines that make me be
Cut this life off from me

Hold my breath as I wish for death
Oh please God, wake me

Now the world is gone, I'm just one
Oh God help me
Hold my breath as I wish for death
Oh please God, help me

Darkness imprisoning me
All that I see
Absolute horror
I cannot live
I cannot die
Trapped in myself
Body my holding cell

Landmine has taken my sight
Taken my speech
Taken my hearing
Taken my arms
Taken my legs
Taken my soul
Left me with life in hell

Re:Must be boring. (3, Interesting)

meta-monkey (321000) | about a year and a half ago | (#41986611)

http://pub.psi.cc/ihnmaims.txt [pub.psi.cc]

Maybe if you're considering Mr. Routely, the man in the article, to be similar to the AM computer from the story. The human protagonist has that thought ("I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream") at the end of the story, but I think what makes that story great was that it really describes the computer. It becomes intelligent, butit's just a world-spanning computer. It has consciousness, but no real purpose, drive or desires, and that's what drives it mad. I find that whole concept really intriguing, because we see a lot of "machines taking over the world" stories in which humans are eliminated because they're considered "inefficient" or simply because the cold, calculating machine sees no value in human life as the machines have no emotions (skynet), but in IHNMAIMS, the computer very much has emotions, it's just that it's hateful. So, instead of humans being eliminated by a machine of cold, cruel logic, they're eliminated and/or tortured by a sadistic machine driven by hatred. Really interesting.

Re:Must be boring. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41986029)

And this puts us one step closer to provide new means to be able to do stuff again.

Re:Must be boring. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41986195)

Ubik is the book.

Re:Must be boring. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41986297)

Republicans do it all of the time (no offence to the real victim here, though).

Re:Must be boring. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41987203)

Fucking liberal morons. You all think we could sing kumbaya with muslims who want us dead, think it's a great idea to kill unborn children, make past times out of making fun of anyone or any news source that is not liberal with complete intolerance, and support any cause that goes against Israel or its existence. You have no mind of your own and just spew out all the brainwashing you got in school and TV like good little mental midgets.

21 Ways to be a good Democrat

1. You have to be against capital punishment, but support abortion on demand.

2. You have to believe that businesses create oppression and governments create prosperity.

3. You have to believe that guns in the hands of law-abiding Americans are more of a threat than U.S. nuclear weapons technology in the hands of Iran or Chinese and North Korean communists.

4. You have to believe that there was no art before federal funding.

5. You have to believe that global temperatures are less affected by cyclical documented changes in the earth's climate and more affected by soccer moms driving SUV's.

6. You have to believe that gender roles are artificial but being homosexual is natural.

7. You have to believe that the AIDS virus is spread by a lack of federal funding.

8. You have to believe that the same teacher who can't teach 4th-graders how to read is somehow qualified to teach those same kids about sex.

9. You have to believe that hunters don't care about nature, but loony activists who have never been outside of San Francisco do.

10. You have to believe that self-esteem is more important than actually doing something to earn it.

11. You have to believe that the government "owes" you something, therefore, we need more social programs.

12. You have to believe the NRA is bad because it supports certain parts of the Constitution, while the ACLU is good because it supports certain parts of the Constitution.

13. You have to believe that taxes are too low, but ATM fees are too high.

14. You have to believe that Margaret Sanger, Gloria Steinem, and certain liberal movie stars are more important to America than Thomas Jefferson, Gen. Robert E. Lee, and The Supreme Court..

15. You have to believe that standardized tests are racist, but racial quotas and set-asides are not.

16. You have to believe that Barack Hussein Obama and Hillary Clinton are wonderful, normal, and are very honest people.

17. You have to believe that the only reason socialism hasn't worked anywhere it's been tried is because the right people haven't been in charge.

18. You have to believe conservatives telling the truth belong in jail, but a liars, racists, and a sex maniacs belonged in the White House.

19. You have to believe that homosexual parades displaying drag, transvestites, and hard core sex, should be constitutionally protected, and displaying the 10 Commandments or the Confederate flag should not.

20. You have to believe that illegal Democratic Party funding by the Chinese Government is somehow in the best interest of the United States.

21. You have to believe that illegal aliens should be left alone because they're here to "make a better life for themselves."

22. You have to believe that racism is okay as long as it's against white men. And anyone who disagree's with Islam or homosexuality is a racists even though it has nothing to do with race.

I'm loath to ask: (5, Interesting)

newcastlejon (1483695) | about a year and a half ago | (#41985849)

Will they ask him if he wants to die?

Re:I'm loath to ask: (5, Funny)

Antipater (2053064) | about a year and a half ago | (#41985929)

*beep beep* "Yes, yes? I knew it. Euthanize him, boys!"

Re:I'm loath to ask: (2)

steviesteveo12 (2755637) | about a year and a half ago | (#41986609)

I'm uncomfortably reminded of the Facilitated Communication scam, except replacing holding their hand with an fMRI scanner. I'd hope no one dies based on cutting edge research into interpreting brain scans.

Re:I'm loath to ask: (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41986727)

That's odd, because the first thought that leapt to my mind was Captain Pike.

Re:I'm loath to ask: (1)

jamesh (87723) | about a year and a half ago | (#41986759)

I'm uncomfortably reminded of the Facilitated Communication scam, except replacing holding their hand with an fMRI scanner. I'd hope no one dies based on cutting edge research into interpreting brain scans.

I'm more worried about someone being unnecessarily kept alive and hogging all those delicious organs...

Re:I'm loath to ask: (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41985937)

I think it's a fair question & something he deserves. I read in my local news paper (mX...) they plan to ask him what time he prefers food or to be bathed in the future but what about asking him about his over all quality of life?

Re:I'm loath to ask: (4, Insightful)

pwizard2 (920421) | about a year and a half ago | (#41986069)

Being kept alive in that condition (where you are conscious but are essentially trapped in your own body) is unimaginably cruel. I for one would rather die.

Re:I'm loath to ask: (1)

newcastlejon (1483695) | about a year and a half ago | (#41986217)

I for one would rather die.

How lucky you are; if you are laid low as Scott has been you won't have to wait a decade to tell anyone.

Re:I'm loath to ask: (5, Interesting)

geekoid (135745) | about a year and a half ago | (#41986385)

Not me. Keep me going. I would rather be bored then dead. They might be able to cure me someday.

In the mean time please leave the TV on. maybe get an EKG machine that lets me interface with a computer.

You sir, are a quitter.

Re:I'm loath to ask: (4, Interesting)

pwizard2 (920421) | about a year and a half ago | (#41986629)

You're assuming quite a bit. What if the parts of your brain that process visual/audio data are damaged and don't work anymore? Just how useful would TV be in that situation? Think about it... you would be trapped in a dark abyss entirely inside your head, unable to see or hear any stimulus. Even if people come to visit you, you would never know because you couldn't see or hear them. Yes, death would be preferable.

Re:I'm loath to ask: (2)

adolf (21054) | about a year and a half ago | (#41987377)

Yes, death would be preferable.

Perhaps. But would you be able to tell the difference?

Re:I'm loath to ask: (2)

evilviper (135110) | about a year and a half ago | (#41987387)

What if the parts of your brain that process visual/audio data are damaged and don't work anymore?

That isn't the case for this man. He is apparently acquiring information from after his accident (unless this experiment is biased and the conclusions are all crap, but that's a different discussion).

you would be trapped in a dark abyss entirely inside your head, unable to see or hear any stimulus

Purgatory? Solitary confinement? Depending on your philosophy, a few years of that may be preferable to death. And if there is any HOPE of a cure, a few years of complete isolation may not be horrendous. If you've had a decently long life, you may have lots to think about...

Re:I'm loath to ask: (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41986885)

There are things in this world far worse than death.

Re:I'm loath to ask: (3, Interesting)

mariox19 (632969) | about a year and a half ago | (#41987403)

You mean like being a patient such as Mr. Routley and having your organs harvested? Generally, donors are not given pain medication, only tranquilizers to keep their bodies from flinching, since it's assumed that people in such a state are "gone." I brought this up to my brother, the anesthesiologist, when this story was in the news a few months back, and he insisted that there was no need for anesthesia. That's the consensus of the medical community.

That puts us a step ahead of vivisection—but only barely.

Re:I'm loath to ask: (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41986923)

Care should be taken with the TV channel - can you imagine being stuck in front of Oprah all day. You may actually end up bored then dead.

Re:I'm loath to ask: (4, Funny)

houghi (78078) | about a year and a half ago | (#41987165)

We have put MTV on for you. Are you happy now or would you rather die?

Re:I'm loath to ask: (2)

BitterOak (537666) | about a year and a half ago | (#41987175)

In the mean time please leave the TV on.

Depending on what channel it's set to, that could be a fate far worse than death.

Re:I'm loath to ask: (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41987195)

Yeah, let's see how fucking brave you are when you're stuck in a black abyss for the rest of your artificial life. Decades on end of nothing. If they do find a way to reconnect your senses, you'll be long dead.

Re:I'm loath to ask: (1)

TheCarp (96830) | about a year and a half ago | (#41986901)

I definitely agree now, and as a default, I want that assumed. However, If possible, I would like the opportunity to be asked, especially if there was a chance to be a part of research into people in my condition to potentially make communication easier or even computer interface possible, which could totally change the equation.... even if just for a little while.

Though, in some ways the only place you ever are is in your mind, I could see it being a totally different experience for some people. I can't imagine being ok with it for long without some serious advancements along that line to say the least.

Maybe one day, I could even be reborn with a robot interface.... though we all know where that leads...

Kill me, please (3, Informative)

Bruce Perens (3872) | about a year and a half ago | (#41987101)

I have a legal document that tells my family to pull the plug in such a case. I don't care who thinks I'm a "quitter".

Re:Kill me, please (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41987299)

I've had trauma surgeons tell me that advance directives/living wills are very frequently overridden by family.

It makes sense, in a degenerate way: the docs and the hospital have better things to do than sue families to get them to follow their invalid family member's advance directive document. It would be a PR disaster, and it's just easier to leave a patient as a full code on a vent rather than fighting a family willing to attempt to get an injunction from a court.

Basically, what I was told was that these help to absolve your power of attorney of any guilty feelings they might have about terminating care and letting you die. So, it's important that your PoA is on board with your wishes, otherwise they won't be happening while you're incapacitated (and if you're *not* incapacitated then you don't need a living will in order to execute your wishes). Don't get me wrong—I have a notarized living will for which I and my PoA carry a digital copy on our USB keychain drives. I'm just saying that the documents aren't a panacea.

Also, it's tough to be a doctor. If a patient is resuscitated after their DNR is on file then performing CPR, etc, is legally considered assault (or battery). I've seen a department in damage control mode after a resident failed to let a patient die (ie. the resident successfully resuscitated a DNR patient and wasn't aware of the DNR order). Can end up charged with malpractice or worse...

Re:I'm loath to ask: (1)

Gaygirlie (1657131) | about a year and a half ago | (#41987121)

Being kept alive in that condition (where you are conscious but are essentially trapped in your own body) is unimaginably cruel. I for one would rather die.

I totally agree with you there. I've actually said the thing multiple times to all my relatives and acquaintances; I do not ever wish to be confined to my own body, without ever being able to so much as move my arm. I'd much rather die and donate my organs to someone else who actually wishes to live.

They don't need to (1)

Hentes (2461350) | about a year and a half ago | (#41986203)

Most of the time they just kill them without asking.

Re:They don't need to (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41986285)

What's the point of keeping him alive - all he can do is lie there and shit himself.

As a libertarian I say let the market decide.

Re:They don't need to (1)

Golddess (1361003) | about a year and a half ago | (#41986301)

Usually just by pulling the plug on whatever machine is keeping them alive, right? Makes me wonder how much hunger (either of air or food) he and others like him are capable of feeling...

Re:I'm loath to ask: (1)

quantaman (517394) | about a year and a half ago | (#41986365)

I've heard the researcher interviewed, and while they've considered this question they're not ready to ask it.

Even assuming you can ensure the answer is reliable, and the patient is competent (he's still brain damaged), euthanasia is a very delicate subject.

Re:I'm loath to ask: (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41986905)

I think this sort of research is great--it's disturbing to me that conclusions about being in a vegetative state have not been more sophisticated before.

However, I have serious, serious concerns about the author of this study grossly oversimplifying what's happening in terms of the cognition of the patients.

They are able to answer *some* basic questions correctly most of the time, but does this mean they are reasoning? Is it an "automatic" response? What, exactly, is their level of reasoning ability?

The question "Do you want to die" isn't significant only because it raises ethical questions about euthanasia, but because it begs the question of what, exactly, *is* the cognitive state of the individuals being assessed.

Neurosurgeons are notorious for an attitude of "well, they can walk and talk, so their cognitive state is fine." I worry that this will now extend to an attitude of "well, they can correctly identify their father's name, and their own name, and where they live, so that means they are sentient and capable of abstract reasoning and ethical decision-making."

We really don't understand how the brain works, and to me this has all of the appearance of a sophisticated neurological party trick.

Sounds like a match. (4, Interesting)

olsmeister (1488789) | about a year and a half ago | (#41985853)

Sounds like a great use for something like this. [slashdot.org] But, have fun getting insurance to cover it...

EEG == $75k? (4, Insightful)

sgt scrub (869860) | about a year and a half ago | (#41985867)

How does one charge $75,000 bucks for something that can be found in the land of open source?

http://openeeg.sourceforge.net/buildeeg/ [sourceforge.net]

Re:EEG == $75k? (2)

suutar (1860506) | about a year and a half ago | (#41985915)

Because one can get that much from hospitals that can't use the open source one because it's not certified?

Re:EEG == $75k? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41986035)

EEG is not the same as fMRI. NIR would be a possibility and much cheaper. Interpretation of fMRI results are tricky. I'm looking forward to reading the original paper

Re:EEG == $75k? (1)

mikael (484) | about a year and a half ago | (#41986571)

fMRI is in real time - they can ask him questions and watch the oxygen levels of the different brain regions light up. They already have a a general model of what does where. So by getting him to think different things, they can see different areas light up.

Re:EEG == $75k? (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41986089)

Because one can get that much from hospitals that can't use the open source one because it's not certified?

Did you use a random word generator, or was that supposed to be a sentence?

Re:EEG == $75k? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41986305)

It might be time for you to work on the ol' reading comprehension.

Re:EEG == $75k? (4, Insightful)

Bruce Perens (3872) | about a year and a half ago | (#41985985)

75K seems a good amount for taking something that could be done in Open Source and making it safe, reliable, and repeatably measurable for use in a hospital.

Sure, we can get these things to cost $5000 like a good hearing aid. But I'm not sure that version is going to be used to make the final assessment of whether there is a living person in a locked-in patient or not.

Re:EEG == $75k? (1)

icebike (68054) | about a year and a half ago | (#41986511)

75K seems a good amount for taking something that could be done in Open Source and making it safe, reliable, and repeatably measurable for use in a hospital.

Sure, we can get these things to cost $5000 like a good hearing aid. But I'm not sure that version is going to be used to make the final assessment of whether there is a living person in a locked-in patient or not.

Developmental costs of 75,000 seem unlikely to suffice. Factor of 10, maybe, but most likely to get such a device
certified you are talking 7.5 million.

After that, per unit cost depends solely on the parts involved, and these are pretty cheap. Knocking them
out for 5grand seems entirely possible.

You can buy a Defibrillator [amazon.com] on Amazon.com for a thousand bucks, with no license, training, or certification for use. And it is designed to generate potentially life ending voltages.

There is nothing unsafe about EEG electrodes, some of which can be totally passive, that could not be solved with an optical signal linkage (air gap). Even Active electrodes can be battery powered.
Such would preclude even the most dunderhead-ed wiring job from turning an inert pickup into a shock inducing short circuit.
Five volts and tiny amperage's are routinely popped into our ears every time we put in ear buds, without a thought.

I'm not sure why such a cheap device couldn't be used to make such an assessment, at least as a preliminary diagnostic tool.
We make life and death assessments with Sub $100 stethoscopes every day.

Until that time when it is trusted enough to justify pulling the plug on a warn body, it can be used bedside to communicate at some level
with the patient on an ongoing basis. 5K is not all that expensive compared to what is already wheeled into hospital rooms
every day in any modern country.

Re:EEG == $75k? (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about a year and a half ago | (#41986695)

EEGs are just sensitive amplifiers. They aren't hard to make [avenhaus.de] , lots of engineering classes have made them in one form or another.

Data collection and interpretation are other matters entirely.

Re:EEG == $75k? (1)

icebike (68054) | about a year and a half ago | (#41986793)

EEGs are just sensitive amplifiers. They aren't hard to make [avenhaus.de] , lots of engineering classes have made them in one form or another.

Data collection and interpretation are other matters entirely.

That information is implicit in this thread.

But you are not going to bring home brew medical devices into a hospital in anything but the most backward of third world countries.
Certifying such a device for hospital use will take years and money. Just ask the people who already supply these things to hospitals.

This subthread is about making a life-support decision based on such a tool.

Re:EEG == $75k? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41986981)

Your insurance, alone, is going to be a lot more than the parts, for additional copies. The liability involved is severe, and not severable.

Re:EEG == $75k? (1)

Bruce Perens (3872) | about a year and a half ago | (#41987131)

Yes, I meant 75K per sold device not for the entire development cost.

Unfortunately, right now you might have to allocate tens of Millions to such a company just to operate the patent defense. Never mind that this was a vacuum tube device. There are current patents on computer implementations.

Re:EEG == $75k? (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about a year and a half ago | (#41986163)

I assume that there is a slice of the 'sold as a medical device' premium; but that you start looking at a considerable premium if you make greater demands on the sensitivity and precision of the device. If you are hunting signals down into microvolt amplitudes, and don't want to get out your good bone saw, I suspect that a $2 op-amp doesn't always cut it.

How can Agilent sell $15k oscilloscopes when you can download Arduino firmware with oscilloscope functions for free? Sensitivity, sample rate, features, probably some name-brand markup.

Re:EEG == $75k? (2)

geekoid (135745) | about a year and a half ago | (#41986405)

Once again,. someon on /. has no clue baout how the world actually wqorks.

They need to pay people.
It needs to get certified.
Maintained
Tested regularly,
be durable.
make a profit.

So, yeah shit cost money and time.
Now, if I had someone I knew in that state and I couldn't get one through the hospital, I would build on to bring with me. It wouldn't be a medical device.

Hope for treating "Locked-in" Syndrome (3, Interesting)

Freshly Exhumed (105597) | about a year and a half ago | (#41985877)

If even a small percentage of people suffering with "Locked-in" Syndrome [wikipedia.org] are reachable it will be a major win. Think "Johnny Got His Gun" or "The Diving Bell And The Butterfly" for cinematic examples of "Locked-in" Syndrome.

Re:Hope for treating "Locked-in" Syndrome (1)

Quiet_Desperation (858215) | about a year and a half ago | (#41986001)

Johnny could at least nod out Morse code if I recall.

There was an episode of House like this. A "ocked in" guy was hooked up to sensors, and he had to teach himself to think certain ways to move a pointer on a computer screen so he could at least give yes and no responses.

London, Ontario (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41986075)

Big win for the London, Ontario area, not to mention UWO, who also has recently announced good news on the HIV vaccine testing.

London, Ontario (2)

Rohobian (1419397) | about a year and a half ago | (#41986131)

Big win for the London, Ontario area, not to mention UWO, who also recently announced good news on HIV vaccine tests.

Not vegetative? (1, Insightful)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about a year and a half ago | (#41986151)

Oh dear [wikipedia.org] !

Re:Not vegetative? (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about a year and a half ago | (#41986201)

Oh dear [wikipedia.org] !

If only they had thought to use EEG and neuroimaging techniques during her attempted rehabilitation and the subsequent EOL battle...

Oh, wait, they did, and didn't find anything.

Re:Not vegetative? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41986319)

Try reading your own reference. Start here. [wikipedia.org]

The damage was, in the words of Thogmartin, "irreversible, and no amount of therapy or treatment would have regenerated the massive loss of neurons."

Her melon was empty.

Re:Not vegetative? (1)

sjames (1099) | about a year and a half ago | (#41987605)

Not to worry, none of the brain structures observed in TFA still existed in her head.

Just kill them all for the love of god (0)

lexman098 (1983842) | about a year and a half ago | (#41986275)

I'm not even sure why they let vegetative people live if they've been in that condition for so long. If they're truly unconscious then they're already gone, and if they're not you definitely want to kill them. It makes me sick that we even *potentially* leave people in such a state for so long.

Re:Just kill them all for the love of god (2)

Xacid (560407) | about a year and a half ago | (#41986445)

But is it to release you from the burden or them? Seems like a question that can be asked of them now.

Re:Just kill them all for the love of god (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41986463)

FYI, that's basically what the enlightened such as the Dali Lama think of the rest of us. That smile is not what it seems

Re:Just kill them all for the love of god (1)

geekoid (135745) | about a year and a half ago | (#41986533)

Fuck you.

Never, ever turn me off.
How about we find away to communicate instead of just killing them?
hmm?
You are a small minded, mean SOB.

Gosh, someone provokes god in the same sentence as killing people. I'm shocked I tell you. Yes I am aware I might be committing the genetic fallacy.

Re:Just kill them all for the love of god (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41986883)

Oh, give it a break.

If you can't make contact with me, kill me just to be sure. For all you know, I might be in terrible pain. In any event, my existence would not be a blessing to me or my loved ones.

Don't turn life into a fetish.

Re:Just kill them all for the love of god (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41987423)

You're the mean one. They're in a state that's probably the most hellish thing imaginable. Sensory deprivation makes people go insane after a while, imagine it for years.

Re:Just kill them all for the love of god (4, Insightful)

Baloroth (2370816) | about a year and a half ago | (#41986561)

I'm not even sure why they let vegetative people live if they've been in that condition for so long. If they're truly unconscious then they're already gone, and if they're not you definitely want to kill them. It makes me sick that we even *potentially* leave people in such a state for so long.

You cannot say that someone else should die, without asking them, simply because **you** imagine you would want to in that situation. That would violate just about every single code of ethics imaginable. The situation changes a bit if they have previously expressed a desire not to be kept alive in such a situation (which is often followed, although mind you even in that case, it's hard to know if they really meant it, since they had no prior experience with which to make an educated judgment), but to presume that another should die because of what you think or want is one of the grossest violations of human rights possible.

Re:Just kill them all for the love of god (1)

lexman098 (1983842) | about a year and a half ago | (#41986673)

So consider some other form of torture. Maybe a person is impaled every hour for years. Would you find it just as unethical then to assume they'd want to be put out of their misery if there was little hope of alleviating their pain (assuming you couldn't communicate)? My point here is that there is a line. Maybe you don't agree with my line, but throwing out "gross violations of human rights" is a little far fetched. I expect most people would not want to be locked in their own mind for years.

Re:Just kill them all for the love of god (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about a year and a half ago | (#41986751)

The trouble is that not choosing isn't an option. And, if a patient cannot communicate or is too young/brain-damaged/mentally ill/etc. to communicate their preference, you can't usefully ask(this particular case, apparently, now may be able to communicate, solving the ethical problem).

This puts you in the position of being forced to act on somebody else, without having access to their opinion. What, then, do you base your actions on? Do you do unto them as you would do unto you? Do you do some polling and do unto them as a statistically representative sample of demographically similar people would do unto themselves? Do you flip a coin?

The problem is that there isn't a 'default' position. Either way, you make the choice for them and impose it on them.

fMRI has problems (5, Interesting)

capedgirardeau (531367) | about a year and a half ago | (#41986713)

fMRI has problems and is very subject to interpretation, misuse and manipulation.

For example the now classic dead fish fMRI tests:
http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2009/09/fmrisalmon/ [wired.com]

I am very skeptical of this until it has been repeated, tested and evaluated in other settings by different researchers.

For some reason when reading the story, it really reminded me of "facilitated communication" which is a terrible, cruel scam non-communicative and vegetative or near vegetative state people are subject to. I realize this is different, but really not very different.

Re:fMRI has problems (3, Interesting)

Chuckstar (799005) | about a year and a half ago | (#41986969)

You also have to be careful when thinking about this due to the different conditions that could all be lumped into "vegetative states".

Someone with localized damage could appear vegetative, but really just be "locked in". In other words, they could have a largely intact brain, except for key regions blocking movement/communication. They would appear vegetative, but actually be able to react in ways that would show up in fMRI. This research could prove to be valid in such cases.

Someone like Teri Shiavo, though, is a whole different story. Her brain was so damaged that most of it was simply gone (damaged material is cleared out by the immune system). She mostly had a big empty cavity in her head filled with fluid. It's unlikely that fMRI would show any response in such a case. And even if it did, with that much damage it would be impossible to make any guess as to what that activity might mean.

Non-verbal Autism (1)

macraig (621737) | about a year and a half ago | (#41987109)

This work might also have implications for non-verbal autistic people, who historically were presumed to be severely retarded.

Terri Schiavo?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41987149)

Any similarities with her case? Did they pull the plug too early?

False positive? (4, Interesting)

xlsior (524145) | about a year and a half ago | (#41987227)

Just because they got results, doesn't mean that there's any conscious thought going on.

Case in point: http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2009/09/fmrisalmon/ [wired.com]
"So, as the fish sat in the scanner, they showed it “a series of photographs depicting human individuals in social situations.” To maintain the rigor of the protocol (and perhaps because it was hilarious), the salmon, just like a human test subject, “was asked to determine what emotion the individual in the photo must have been experiencing.”

The salmon, as Bennett’s poster on the test dryly notes, “was not alive at the time of scanning.”

If that were all that had occurred, the salmon scanning would simply live on in Dartmouth lore as a “crowning achievement in terms of ridiculous objects to scan.” But the fish had a surprise in store. When they got around to analyzing the voxel (think: 3-D or “volumetric” pixel) data, the voxels representing the area where the salmon’s tiny brain sat showed evidence of activity. In the fMRI scan, it looked like the dead salmon was actually thinking about the pictures it had been shown."

Not the first time (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41987415)

Both the BBC and the Star articles claims this is a first. But it's not [slashdot.org] .

Bow and locks (0)

Peter (Professor) Fo (956906) | about a year and a half ago | (#41987651)

Feedback in necessary to tailor efforts into communication. Suppose you woke up in the jungle surrounded by monkeys (or whatever intelligent creature rocks your boat.) If they don't react to Ug? BOO! Gosh-pilliwinks! or anything else you have no way to evolve a language. 'Doctors' could do better with a dice or oueja board.
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