Study: Woman in Coma Able to Respond With Thoughts


A severely brain-damaged woman in an unresponsive, vegetative state
showed clear signs of conscious awareness on brain imaging tests
researchers are reporting today, in a finding that could have
far-reaching consequences for how unconscious patients are cared for
and diagnosed.

In response to commands, the
patient’s brain flared with activity, lighting the same language and
planning regions that are active when healthy people hear the commands.
Previous studies had found similar activity in partly conscious
patients, who occasionally respond to commands, but never before in
someone who was totally


This opens up a whole new range of possibilities. For example, what if there was a way to fit a comatose patient with a brain activity sensor that could enable them to think of certain things in order to trigger things in their environment? For example, suppose that the woman above could think of playing tennis and that would cause the radio to turn on or off in her hospital room? Similarly, if she thought about moving around her house, suppose that could alert a nurse that she needed pain medication or to be repositioned, etc.? This could provide a way for comatose people to communicate with their caregivers and have some control over their environments. It might even be possible to teach them things to think about in order to indicate "yes" and "no" answers to questions. So someone could ask them questions about what they experience and they could answer yes or no. It might even be possible to teach them to communicate letters so they could spell out messages.

The whole premise that a comatose person has no conscious awareness or sensation may be overturned by this. Perhaps they are much more aware than we thought but they are simply unable to control their bodies in order to speak or move? If that is the case, they must be desperate for a way to communicate and this could be the answer.

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One Response to Study: Woman in Coma Able to Respond With Thoughts

  1. Ashley says:

    Yes, having been in this situation myself, I can vouch for their conclusion. I have no recollection of the very early coma, but I can remember certain things vaguely before I was discharged to outpatient rehab a couple months later. I can remember being very frustrated by not being able to speak or move when I wanted to. I can best describe it as a “fog”. A lot will happen now that I feel has happened before, or at least I’ll know how it’ll play out ahead of time much like deja vu. It’s really weird. No one has ever asked me such a open-ended question or allowed me to tell it as I remember. I’ve been thru so much testing I never want to do it again.