Brain Research Team Working on New Tool that Measures Consciousness
In cases of severe brain injury, patients who have retained a level of awareness may appear indistinguishable from those who are in a true vegetative state. This is known as “locked-in syndrome,” in which a person is conscious yet unable to transmit it in any obvious way.
Since a patient’s level of awareness weighs heavily on his or her chances of recovery, neuroscientists and medical professionals everywhere are trying to find a reliable way to measure awareness, or consciousness.
The method being used today involves subjecting patients to external stimuli, such as voice commands or pain, and seeing if they react with movement or brain activity. However, this method of testing is imperfect and produces only crude measurements.
A research team led by Dr. Marcello Massimini, a neurophysiologist at the University of Milan in Italy, believes they have come up with a method that provides clear and objective measurements of a patient’s consciousness. It involves the combination of two medical devices. The first delivers a pulse of magnetism that stimulates the brain. The second device, an electroencephalogram (EEG), measures the brain waves after the pulse has been delivered.
The researchers invented a formula that essentially compresses the data gathered by the EEG into a numerical measurement called the PCI, or pertubational complexity index. A higher PCI exhibits a higher level of consciousness and vice versa.
An experiment was conducted by the research team using the new method. The results were promising.
If perfected, the method could lead to improved treatments and procedures for patients with severe brain injury.
The Atlanta traumatic brain injury attorneys at The Law Offices of Wayne Grant, P.C. are excited about this new study and its implications for brain injury victims and their families. We hope further developments in neuroscience will bring them relief from such great suffering. To find out more about our firm, call (404) 995-3955.
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