Imagine if you were completely conscious but couldn't move or speak? Neuroscientist Adrian Owen has been using brain-imaging techniques to detect consciousness in patients who are presumed to be vegetative, sometimes for many years. By giving simple commands and then measuring brain activity, Owen has learned some patients are completely aware despite being entirely unable to communicate or move their limbs.

The Owen Lab - Documentaries

  • Kate's Story May 3, 2008

  • How we did it - communicating with a patient presumed to be in a vegetative state for 12 years Nov 19, 2012

  • The quest for consciousness: Adrian Owen at TEDxUWO

News Articles

Vegetative patient shows he is aware of his identity, whereabouts Aug. 12, 2013

[...] one of three vegetative patients to correctly answer questions such as, “Are you in a hospital?” and “Is your name Mike?” posed using a new, more effective technique of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). His responses are a leap forward in communications with unresponsive patients, building on a breakthrough contact that researchers achieved with him in 2012 using a more primitive technique.

Canadian patient in 'vegetative state' able to communicate Nov. 13, 2012

Because each of those thoughts activated different parts of the brain, British neuroscientist Adrian Owen, who led the team, says Routley was able to communicate clearly.

Vegetative patient now able to give 'thumbs up,' fuelling debate Apr. 24, 2012

A hospital patient deemed vegetative is now able to make a “thumbs up” gesture – a sign to family that he is aware, but not yet strong enough to persuade doctors to drop a recommendation to withdraw life support.

A leading neuroscientist, Adrian Owen, travelled to Mr. Rasouli’s bedside at Sunnybrook on Tuesday, to conduct investigations to determine whether he can communicate.

His investigations come on the heels of a study he published in the medical journal The Lancet, revealing that 19 per cent of patients believed to be in an irreversible vegetative state showed signs of full consciousness when tested with an electroencephalography machine.

- Noel Burton-Krahn


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