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Man in Persistent Vegetative State Communicates

Recently, one of our Lancaster brain injury attorneys came across a fascinating article in the Huffington Post. It reports that a Canadian man in a vegetative state was able to communicate with researchers at the University of Western Ontario using a functional MRI (fMRI) machine. 

The man, 39-year-old Scott Routley, suffered a severe brain injury in a car crash more than 12 years ago. He is unable to speak or move and was considered by doctors to be in a vegetative state. However, now his brain activity may show otherwise. Researchers scanned his brain with an fMRI machine as he answered a series of yes or no questions. The machine cannot pick up on thoughts of “yes” and “no”, so he was instructed to visualize walking around his house if he wished to respond yes and playing tennis if he wished to respond no. 

In this way, Routley was able to tell them that he is not experiencing any pain. Based on the patterns of brain activity seen when he answered the yes or no questions, the team led by Dr. Adrian Owen is convinced that he has a conscious mind. 

Although Routley’s fMRI shows he is not vegetative, he still fits the profile of a person in a persistent vegetative state. He is unable to move or communicate in any meaningful way with those around him. 

This new method of communication shows great promise as it may be used to advance the care of those in a vegetative state in the future. It may also change the way we think about these patients, as some may be much more conscious than previously thought. 

If you or a loved one has suffered a traumatic brain injury or other serious injury due to the actions of a negligent driver, contact an experienced Lancaster brain injury lawyer at Schmidt Kramer. The toll-free number is (717) 888-8888 and the consultation is free. You may also wish to download a free copy of our book Who Pays the Bills When You Are Injured in an Automobile Accident? for more information.