Written by By Jennifer Welsh, LiveScience Staff Writer Tuesday, 01 March 2011 13:39
“Not all minimally conscious patients are the same, and not all patients with locked-in syndrome are the same.”
Scanning the mental activity of people with brain injuries is showing scientists that not all patients with the same condition should be treated the same way. Some patients may have higher cognitive function than their responses to doctors indicate, and some may have lower, according to a new study.
“We have to abandon the idea that we can rely on a bedside exam in our assessment of some severe brain injuries,” researcher Nicholas Schiff, of Weill Cornell Medical College, said in a statement.
Schiff and other researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans to test a spectrum of brain-injured patients—including those whose bedside tests showed them to be in a minimally conscious state; those who showed a limited ability to communicate by voice and gesture; and those suffering from “locked-in” syndrome, unable to move despite normal cognitive function. (Unlike paralysis, these patients can’t even move their eyes or head as a result of injury to the brain, not spinal cord.)