Patient in Vegetative State: I'm Not in Pain

In breakthrough, doctors communicate with brain-damaged man

By John Johnson,  Newser Staff

Posted Nov 13, 2012 3:31 PM CST | Updated Nov 17, 2012 7:00 PM CST

(Newser) – An intriguing medical breakthrough out of Canada—doctors say they have been able for the first time to communicate with a patient who has severe brain damage. Better yet, the message delivered by the patient was a great one: I'm not in pain. The Canadian Press and the BBC explain that doctors studied the patient's brain waves as they voiced a command: he should think about playing tennis if he were not in pain or about walking around the house if he were. The activities trigger different parts of the brain—motor skills vs. visual associations—and the man's brain waves suggested he was pain-free.

"Scott has been able to show he has a conscious, thinking mind," says a British neuroscientist, referring to 39-year-old Scott Routley. "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." Routley has been in a vegetative state since a car accident 12 years ago.

File image of brain waves.
File image of brain waves.   (Shutterstock)
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