Interesting new discoveries are being made regarding brain activity that occurs during certain mental states. Through the combined efforts of the Coma Science Group of the University and CHU of Liège, led by Steven Laureys, and the universities of Milan & Wisconsin new advances in methods of measuring brain activity have been made.
Among these discoveries, evidence shows that a patient in a vegetative state or partially conscious state has the ability to produce conscious brain activity, similar to that of a normal healthy patient, and may even dream. The methods conducted by these groups use either a combination of EEG (electroencephalography) and TMS (transcranial magnetic stimulation), or a high density EEG or Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) to measure brain activity during sleep or a minimally conscious or unconscious state as seen after severe brain damage.
This new combined TMS/EEG method allows the doctor to stimulate the brain and measure the activity and connectivity occurringwithin the brain, simultaneously. It demonstrates, for example, that a severely brain damaged patient may show “normal” conscious activity between regions of the brain even though incapable of communicating with the outside world.
Using the latter method, (high density EEG) these same researchers made some additional discoveries. They discovered that during sleep, activity between certain regions in the brain could actually be similar to that of a normal healthy dreaming brain. The study even suggests that this kind of activity may reflect some level of spontaneous healing.
These methods, capable of being carried out at bedside, show that measurement of activity and evaluation of what takes place inside the brain can actually be recorded without the patient even needing to be collaborative or understand language. This could be highly beneficial to the doctor needing to evaluate the severely brain damaged patient, whether in a coma, vegetative or minimally conscious state, that is unable to communicate.
Overall, use of these methods could prove promising to the future development of healthcare procedures by not only helping to evaluate the patient’s clinical state but by also monitoring and treating the level of consciousness as well. Brain matter that’s worth thinking about.
Dr Mélanie Boly firstname.lastname@example.org, Mobile +32 499 29 25 59 or
Pr Steven Laureys email@example.com, Mobile +32 477 97 24 52.