13:39 14 November 2012
A severely brain damaged man who is now in permanent vegetative state can communicate with his doctors through the power of thought. The victim of a car crash 10 years ago, Scott Routley, is now one of the patients who is being treated with pioneering technique developed by researchers at Cambridge University.
This technique uses functional magnetic resonance imaging scans to detect changes in the flow of the blood around the brain.
Patients are asked to imagine they are playing tennis or walking around the house. It is understood that each time this happens it prompts an increase in blood-flow to different parts of the brain.
This is what doctors are using to get answers to patients who are in a permanent vegetative state. They ask a question and the patients are asked to imagine walking around the house if the answer is “yes”, and to pretend they are playing tennis if it is “no”.
Professor Adam Owen, who led the research, said: “Asking a patient something important to them has been our aim for many years. In future we could ask that we could do to improve their quality of life.”