BBC Radio 4’s excellent discussion programme In Our Time just had an interesting edition on neuroscience – what it does, how it does it, and what it’s telling us about the function of the mind and brain.
It’s generally a very interesting discussion, although does get a bit confused towards the end during a discussion of conscious – largely due to a misunderstanding of a famous study.
The discussion touches on neuroscientist Adrian Owen’s study where they wanted to find out whether a patient in a persistent vegetative state (PVS) was conscious by asking them to imagine things and then using fMRI to see if the relevant parts of the brain were active – in other words, if the person was able to consciously hear, understand and carry out the request.
Famously, the patient could – demonstrating that it is possible to be diagnosed with PVS and still be conscious.
However, the guests on the programme discuss the study as if the patient was unconscious and was in a coma, and suggest that this shows the brain can do remarkable things when someone is unconscious which is exactly what it didn’t show.
Otherwise, a fascinating discussion as we’d expect from In Our Time.
Link to programme webpage and audio.