Firing on all neurons: Where consciousness comes from
22 March 2010 by Anil Ananthaswamy
Magazine issue 2752. Subscribe and save
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STEVEN LAUREYS will always remember the 21-year-old woman who had had a stroke. She had been taken to a hospital in Liège, Belgium, where her condition worsened rapidly. She soon lost all motor movement, even the ability to open her eyes. Her prognosis looked bleak, so her doctors turned to Laureys, a neurologist, for a final opinion before turning off her ventilator.
By recording her brain activity as she was asked to respond to simple tasks, such as counting the number of times her name was spoken in a random string of first names, Laureys confirmed that the woman was aware of her surroundings, and so she remained on life support (Neurocase, vol 15, p 271). Clearly that was the right decision: a year later she had recovered enough to be discharged from hospital. "It was only technology that permitted us to show that she was ...
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