A joint study conducted by researchers at University of Cambridge and the Medical Research Council Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, Cambridge has found that some patients in vegetative state could be aware of their surroundings even though they are unconscious and unresponsive.
The researchers combined the mathematical branch of graph theory with high-density electroencephalographs (EEG) to analyze the brain network activity among a group of 32 patients who were diagnosed as vegetative and minimally conscious.
On comparing the results with those of healthy adults, the researchers found that some vegetative patients displayed well preserved brain networks similar to those in healthy adults and such patients were able to show signs of hidden awareness by following commands such as imagining playing tennis. The study has been published in the journal PLOS Computational Biology.
"Our research could improve clinical assessment and help identify patients who might be covertly aware despite being uncommunicative", University of Cambridge's Dr Srivas Chennu said.