ABC Radio National’s All in the Mind recently broadcast a gripping programme on patients in the coma-like persistent vegetative state (PVS) and how new brain imaging techniques might be able to identify people who are conscious but unable to communicate with the outside world.
The programme talks to neuropsychologist Adrian Owen, whose work we’ve featured previously on Mind Hacks, who conducted a brain imaging study on a 23-year-old woman in PVS suggested that she could understand what was being said to her.
The neuroimaging team asked her to practice mental tasks when and could pick up and distinguish the related brain activity using an fMRI scanner.
The programme discusses Owen and colleagues research, including a peak at some ongoing studies to try and turn this into a method of communication, and debates the ethics of dealing with patients who are effectively unresponsive to the world.
It’s also got some striking excerpts from a Kate Cole-Adams’ novel Walking to the Moon about a woman who emerges from coma. If you want to hear more, another ABC show interviewed Cole-Adams and discussed the book.