For the first time in history, a severely brain-damaged, uncommunicative patient has been able to give direct answers to those caring for him, all thanks to Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) scans.
The now 39-year-old Scott Routley has been in a vegetative state for more than 12 years after a car accident, and now Eric Pfeiffer for Yahoo! News reports the Canadian man has managed to communicate to doctors that he is not in any pain.
The leader of the team at the Brain and Mind Institute at the University of Western Ontario, British neuroscientist Adrian Owen, says, “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.”
Scott still registers as vegetative by all normal tests, showing no relevant brain activity, however Owen and the team’s results may completely change our understanding of vegetative states.
Owen hopes the results will lead to improved patient care for those living with severe brain injuries. The scans can be used to communicate regularly because they do not use radiation and are considered to be easy to use with training.