A New Tool To Help Determine “Consciousness” Of The Unconscious

09/09/2013

imageAn experimental tool designed to "peek" into a patient's brain and find signs of consciousness could eventually give doctors a way to more accurately judge chances of recovery from serious brain trauma - and in the process change the nature of end-of-life decisions.

Brain science is a complicated thing. However, when it comes to making end-of-life decisions, the more we know the better informed those decisions should be. Right?

A recent Forbes article, titled "Tool That Looks For Consciousness In The Brain Could Change End-Of-Life Decisions," considers new science that may change the way many end-of-life decisions are made.

Historically, doctors have used MRI machines to scan the brain for activity in response to verbal stimuli. However, this method is said to be of little value in determining "consciousness," as even patients in a so-called "vegetative state" may exhibit significant brain activity. In fact, the likelihood of patient recovery of such patients is difficult to determine via this MRI approach.

A new tool developed in Italy offers new hope. It operates in three fundamental steps. First, a magnetic pulse is sent into the brain to "wake it up." Then, an EEG machine measures the brain wave activity in response to the pulse. Finally, and most significantly, the complexity of consciousness is measured by a formula, instead of merely measuring brain activity.

The problem point, emotionally, scientifically and philosophically, is consciousness; when is it there and when is it not?

Even with this, and other potential future medical advancements, there remains a gray area regarding the issue of patient recovery when it comes to the brain. Consequently, you need to ensure that your advance health care directives and organ donation (or non-donation) wishes are current and communicated with your loved ones and physician.

For more information, please visit my estate planning website

Reference: Forbes (August 17, 2013) "Tool That Looks For Consciousness In The Brain Could Change End-Of-Life Decisions"