|Adrian Owen. IAN GILLESPIE/QMI AGENCY FILE
LONDON, ONT. - For the first time in Canada, scientists have been able to communicate with a person in a vegetative state.
The groundbreaking work was carried out on a patient in London’s Parkwood Hospital.
Since people in vegetative states can’t generally react or respond to external stimuli, Dr. Adrian Owen instead asked yes or no questions and asked the patient to visualize either playing tennis or walking through their home and scanned the patient’s brain. Those two different visualizations trigger activity in different parts of the brain.
The work at the Brain and Mind Institute at Western University mirrored what Owen did in England, work that was published in 2006 by the New England Journal of Medicine that found 18% of patients believed to be in a vegetative state were actually conscious.
Owen has said in the past he hoped his work would enable more patients to have a say in their care, even the ability to refuse life-prolonging treatment.
Owen, the Canada Excellence Research Chair in Cognitive Neuroscience and Imaging, began his work on the study in London in 2011.