Bang! You’re Dead

Credit for picture of Alfred Hictchcock CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images
Credit for picture of Alfred Hictchcock: CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images

Click here to watch the CTV Toronto News Barrie video.

In an article written by Arielle Duhaime-Ross and published by The Verge, we learn the excerpt of an Alfred Hitchcock TV show helped researchers find consciousness in a patient who had been unresponsive for 16 years.

When doctors suspect a patient might be in a “vegetative” state following a serious brain injury, they run a plethora of tests to confirm the diagnosis. These usually consist of asking patients questions about their environment, Contrary to what you might have seen on TV, the sorts of tests rarely include brain scans — ones performed through a machine called an fMRI — because they’re expensive, but more importantly, doctors still don’t quite know what to look for when analyzing someone’s awareness through brain activity.

“Looking at brain activity just isn’t the standard of care,” says Lorina Naci, a neuroscientist at the University of Western Ontario, in Canada, and unfortunately patients with brain injuries are notoriously bad at answering questions, so doctors sometimes miss clues that they might have seen if they had used other methods.”

That’s why Naci and her team are trying to develop a better way of testing consciousness in patients with brain injuries. And what they’ve come up with — a test that combines an Alfred Hitchcock TV show with an fMRI machine — isn’t just significant for the future of brain science. It’s also significant for one specific human being, as it allowed scientists to determine that a patient with an unknown levels of consciousness was in fact capable of understanding the events happening around him — even though his initial injury had taken place over 16 years ago, and he had been unresponsive since then.

“We show for the first time that a patient with unknown levels of consciousness was able to analyze and monitor information coming from his environment,” says Naci, whose work was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Click here to watch a video of Alfred Hitchcock’s Alfred Hitchcock Presents – S07E02 Bang! You’re Dead.

Caution: The study may or may not be repeatable, the results may not work with all nonresponsive patients, and the study makes no mention of bringing a patient out of a vegetative state.

Click here to read another Beyond Injury post.

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