Do Vegetative Patients Dream of Comatose Sheep?

Research sheds light on impaired brain activity
By Zach Samalin,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 14, 2007 9:57 AM CDT
Ten years ago, a young British neuroscientist discovered that patients in a vegetative state may retain more functions than people had realized. The research and controversy continues to this day.   (
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(Newser) – New research into the way vegetative brains function is challenging the way the scientific community classifies cognitively impaired patients. Recent studies show that some vegetative patients can recognize faces, acquire new memories, and imagine physical movement—all mental activities long held to be out of reach for such patients, the New Yorker writes.

In one experiment, when vegetative patients were asked to imagine playing tennis, MRI brain scans showed activity in the same parts of the brain activated in a real match. Such research contradicts assumptions that if the outside is unresponsive, the inside must be as well. The breakthrough information could help put some on the road to recovery.