MRI Brain Scan
A British researcher claims that he has devised a way to communicate with people who, though can’t move their limbs, are consciously aware.
While making a presentation at the Organisation for Human Brain Mapping Conference, Martin Monti of the Medical Research Council’s Cognition and Brain Science Unit in Cambridge said that his work might have implications for the medical diagnosis of people in a vegetative state, and for determining whether to discontinue feeding.
He said that his research followed a 2006 study which suggested that brain scans of a woman who had been in a vegetative state for five months showed her imagining playing tennis, and responding to commands. Monti said that it might be possible to establish communication just by reading a patient’s brain.
During the course of study, Monti and his colleagues analysed brain activity in 16 healthy volunteers with the aid of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans. The researcher first asked the subjects to imagine playing tennis, and then to imagine navigating through an area they knew well, such as their home or a street.
The two tasks, says Monti, were known to activate different brain regions, which could be monitored using the fMRI.
“We were looking at the scan in real time as the participant was imagining their response and we were seeing in real time the different parts of the brain getting active or inactive,” he said.
Monti said that the study had a 100% success rate in determining the right answer. The research might help, in the long term, reconnect patients with their families, Monti said.