Cortical Function in VegetativeState

Cortical Function in the Persistent Vegetative State

Nicholas D. Schiff and Fred Plum

Trends in Cognitive Sciences 3, 43-44 (1999)


The recent article by Menon and colleagues might represent the first functional brain imaging of recovery of awareness identified in such a condition. Menon et al. described a clinically diagnosed woman in a persistant vegetative state (PVS) whose right occipito-temporal regions demonstrated functional activity induced by visual stimuli. This finding, along with recent studies of preserved isolated cortical function in long-standing vegetative states, has potentially important implications for understanding neurological mechanisms that underlie the basis of consciousness. This commentary briefly discusses Menon's case as well as additional vegetative patients who express fragments of behavior over long periods without ever improving. Wider neurobiological and social implications of these findings are also considered.
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