The Electric Commentary

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Johnny Get Your Gun

Here is the most terrifying news of the day, from Slate:


That nightmare is no longer science fiction. Five days ago, Science published a report on a young woman devastated by a car crash in England. For five months after the accident, tests showed no signs of awareness. Doctors declared her vegetative. Then, scientists put her in a Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging scanner, which tracks blood flow to different parts of the brain. They asked her to imagine playing tennis and walking through her home. The scan lit up with telltale patterns of language, movement, and navigation indistinguishable from the brains of healthy people.

Something was awake inside that woman's skull. Without the scanner, no one but her would have known.

How rarely does this happen? Until a decade ago, FMRI didn't even exist. According to the authors, 60 other vegetative patients have been tested on it and have flunked. The English patient had several factors in her favor: Her injury was traumatic, her brain was largely intact, and she had been vegetative for only a few months. At the other end of the spectrum are people such as Terri Schiavo. Their injuries are caused by oxygen starvation, their brains are liquefied, and they've been vegetative for years. By various estimates, 25,000 to 35,000 Americans have been diagnosed as vegetative. How many of them have received FMRI scans? How many would light up? How many are awake in there?


Read the whole thing.

0 Comments:

Post a Comment

<< Home


 
Search:
Keywords:
Amazon Logo