Brain, body and mind: understanding consciousness

στις
Electrical brain 'signatures'. The patient to the left is in a vegetative state; the patient in the middle is also in a vegetative state but their brain appears as conscious as the brain of the healthy individual at the right. Credit: Srivas Chennu
Electrical brain ‘signatures’. The patient to the left is in a vegetative state; the patient in the middle is also in a vegetative state but their brain appears as conscious as the brain of the healthy individual at the right.
Credit: Srivas Chennu

A bedside device that measures ‘brain signatures’ could help diagnose patients who have consciousness disorders – such as a vegetative state – to work out the best course of treatment and to support family counselling. 

With the help of an electrode-studded hairnet wired up to a box that measures patterns of electrical activity, he can monitor the firing of millions of neurons deep within the brain. A few minutes later, wheeling his trolley-held device away, he has enough information to tell how conscious you really are.

The patient might be awake, but to what extent are they aware? Can they hear, see, feel? And if they are aware, does their level of awareness equate to their long-term prognosis? __Srivas Chennu

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