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Panel on fMRI, vegetative states, and consciousness

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March 10, 2010 5:00pm - 6:30pm

Room 280B

The Stanford Interdisciplinary Group on Neuroscience and Society ("SIGNS")

Presents

Panel discussion on fMRI brain imaging, vegetative states, and consciousness

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March 10, 5 - 6 pm
SLS Room 280B, Stanford Law School – Food will be served

A panel of experts in law, ethics, medicine, and brain imaging research will discuss recent inroads into diagnosing and communicating with patients in minimally conscious states.

In a recent paper, researchers found that 5 out of 54 subjects, diagnosed as either in a vegetative or minimally conscious state, showed activation in the supplemental motor area when asked to visualize swinging a tennis bracket and 4 of those same 5 also showed activations in the parahippocampal gyrus when asked to visualize walking through either their home or along city streets familiar to them. Sixteen healthy controls, and one of those five (one who had been in a vegetative state for over 5 years), were then able to use distinction to answer correctly the first five of six yes/no questions put to them, by thinking of tennis (and activating the supplemental motor area) for yes and thinking of walking through their homes (and activating the parahippocampal gyrus) for no (and reverse). This procedure may allow some patients in minimally conscious states to answer yes or no questions and communicate with their family members and doctors.

The panel will discuss this research and its implications. Neurologist Dr. Christine Wijman will talk about the clinical implications, biomedical ethicist Dr. David Magnus will discuss both the implications for hospital ethics committees and for philosophy, law professor Hank Greely will moderate and address possible legal implications, and a neuroscientist will speak about research on consciousness and its different forms.

This panel is held in association with the Dana Foundation's Brain Awareness Week.

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