Friday, September 08, 2006

Coma Victim Plays Tennis With Eyes Closed?

news you may not know


Is it all just

a Mind Game?

A 23-year-old coma victim with a sweet tennis serve? Well… Cambridge researchers say the woman’s brain, though in a vegetative state following an auto accident, responds to commands much like everyone else.

Utilizing sophisticated imaging techniques, the researchers mapped the woman’s brain activity when told to imagine herself playing tennis, walking through her home or considering the distinctions between homonyms, such as “creek” and “creak.” They found the areas of her brain activated by each task were identical to those of healthy control subjects. Said one neurologist, “I was absolutely stunned.”

What does it all mean? Hmm… There is no definitive conclusion yet to be drawn, and little agreement within the medical community concerning the significance and scope of this specific case. Further studies are most certainly in the offing.

In the mean time, should a comatose woman invite you over for a set or two, be cautious. She’s all but invincible on her home-court.

For more, see this excellent article in the Washington Post.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Whilst functional magnetic resonance imaging is an useful tool and does provide some answers to current neurological puzzles, it is important to be cautious regarding conclusions from a single observation.

It would be interesting to see the results of followup studies on this 23-year-old patient and compare them with awakening, meaningful responses as can be witnessed by her attendants and extent of eventual recovery.

There is a small but real danger in the publication of such findings in an esteemed journal such as the Washington Post. Hope will be generated in the minds of all those nursing patients with severely damaged brains. For many of them, the hope will not be borne out by actual events.

7:01 AM  
Blogger sylvia c. said...


I love this post. How interesting! Thanks for sharing.

Your final sentence is a real "eye catcher!"

Sylvia C.

7:05 PM  

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