The year’s top 10 science and tech stories
6. Vegetative consciousness. Last year, scans found near-normal brain activity in a woman who had been diagnosed as vegetative because she didn’t respond visibly to stimuli. The active core of her brain had lost its connections to her body. This year, after trying similar scans on 10 other patients, scientists said one showed “exactly the same responses.” In a third case, electrode stimulation **restored **consciousness to a seemingly incurable brain-damage victim.In a fourth case, a man regained consciousness after 19 years in an apparent coma. A traumatic accident had caused a brain tumor that made him unable to speak or move his limbs. He now says he was conscious the whole time but was unable to speak. The happy implication is that some people we thought were finished may be salvageable. The horrifying corollary is that until we find these people, they’re buried alive in their skulls. Questions: How many others are locked inside? What are our obligations to find and free them? Have we already terminated some of them?
Interesting a liberal magazine like Slate including this story in their top ten. See also Buried Alive in Your Own Skull.