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EEG can pick up brain activity in people in vegetative state, shows study

BMJ 2011; 343 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.d7332 (Published 11 November 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;343:d7332
  1. Nigel Hawkes
  1. 1London

Some patients believed to be in a permanent vegetative state can be shown to possess awareness by analysing electrical signals from their brains picked up by an electroencephalograph (EEG), shows a study.

Similar results have already been reported using functional magnetic resonance image (MRI) scanning, but an EEG is much cheaper and more portable, opening up the possibility of routine use—or even of creating a means by which such patients can communicate with the outside world.

In a study in the Lancet, a team from Canada, Belgium, and the UK report that of 16 patients tested at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge and the University Hospital of Liege in Belgium, three were shown to be responsive (Lancet 2011, doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(11)61224-5). Although incapable of movement, they were able to imagine movements such as clenching a …

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