Insights into the Neurobiology of Death

A recent study gives insight into the #neurobiology of dying.  Before the process of dying neurologists closely monitored patients with devastating #brain injuries following Do Not Resuscitate-Comfort Care orders.  This gave key insights into the mechanisms and timing of events in the brain and the circulatory system  during the dying process. The objective of emergency […]

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Harvard May Have Pinpointed the Source of Human Consciousness

A study of 36 patients with brainstem lesions revealed that the majority of those in comas had damage in a specific area of the brainstem, while most conscious patients did not. The identification of the areas of the brain responsible for consciousness could lead to new treatment options for patients in comas or vegetative states.

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Spectral Signatures of Reorganised Brain Networks in Disorders of Consciousness

Author Summary What are the neural signatures of consciousness? This is an elusive yet fascinating challenge to current cognitive neuroscience, but it takes on an immediate clinical and societal significance in patients diagnosed as vegetative and minimally conscious. In these patients, it leads us to ask whether we can test for the presence of these signatures in the absence of any external signs of awareness. Recent conceptual advances suggest that consciousness requires a dynamic balance between integrated and differentiated networks of information exchange between brain regions. Here we apply this insight to study such networks in patients and compare them to healthy adults. Using the science of graph theory, we show that the rich and diversely connected networks that support awareness are characteristically impaired in patients, lacking the ability to efficiently integrate information across disparate regions via well-connected hubs. We find that the quality of patients’ networks also correlates well with their degree of behavioural responsiveness, and some vegetative patients who show signs of hidden awareness have remarkably well-preserved networks similar to healthy adults. Overall, our research highlights distinctive network signatures of pathological unconsciousness, which could improve clinical assessment and help identify patients who are aware despite being uncommunicative.