Sunday, November 30, 2014
Another exciting (yes, exciting) neuroscience study about covert cognition
Damn those researchers at Western University's Brain and Mind Institute! After I wrote that they were trying to develop methods to detect covert cognition using EEG, they had to go and publish two papers showing some success. Here are the two new papers: First EEG study and Second EEG study. Also, here's the Owen Lab website again: The Owen Lab
My EEG during my coma showed, not surprisingly, that I still had brain activity. But what it couldn't show, at least using the usual methods, was that I was experiencing covert awareness. If my doctors had the techniques being developed by the Brain and Mind Institute at their disposal, they could've been providing me physical and cognitive therapy instead of telling my loved ones to give up hope for my full recovery. That's wonderful, you say? Sure, it's great for the current and future patients in my situation. But now the article I submitted to Skeptical Inquirer about my covert cognition is already out of date! I can't unsend that email submission, so what am I going to do? ;-)
- In July of 2013, I fell into a six-week coma and nearly died. When I awoke from the coma, I could barely lift my head. It has been a hard road to recovery. The doctors advised my loved ones to give up all hope for my full recovery, but while they were shining lights in my eyes to gauge my level of consciousness, I was telling them grumpily to leave me alone because I was trying to get back to sleep...in my coma-dream. I was experiencing covert cognition, and the coma-dream was my version of a near-death experience. I'm a skeptic, so I saw surreal images instead of spirits or dead loved ones. According to my research, as many as one in five people with consciousness disorders have covert cognition.
Not a miracle recovery, but a miracle of modern medicine
In 2013 I fell into a six-week coma and nearly died after I contracted legionella. The Legionnaire's disease was in turn triggered by immunosuppression caused by the prednisone I was taking for my rare autoimmune disease, dermatomyositis.
I suffered a series of strokes on both sides of my brain when the sepsis caused my blood pressure to plummet. I fell into a deep coma. My kidneys and lungs began to fail, as my body was began dying one organ at a time. My doctors told my loved ones to give up hope for my full recovery. They expected me to die, and even if I somehow lived, I would remain a vegetable or at best left so hopelessly brain-damaged that I would never be same. But unbeknownst to them, while they were shining lights in my eyes and shaking their heads, I was telling them in my coma-dream--my secular version of a near-death experience--to leave me alone because I was trying to get back to sleep. I was experiencing what is known as covert cognition, the subject of my Skeptical Inquirer article "Covert Cognition: My So-Called Near-Death Experience," which appeared in their July/August issue.
But it wasn't a miracle--despite what so many continue to believe--that I recovered so fully. I owe my life not to God, but the miracles of modern medicine, as well as the nature of the watershed-area brain damage I suffered, as I detailed in my article and in this blog.