|Both the left and center scans are of vegetative patients who were behaviorally identical. The scan on the right was of a healthy control.|
In a related stories link within a typically sensationalist Daily Mail article about Alexander's story, I found an article that I initially dismissed--after a quick skim--as only being about Adrian Owen's tennis study and the Owen Lab's Hitchcock study, both of which I'm a intimately familiar with. But I'm a terrible skimmer, and it turns out that the article was really about a 2014 Cambridge study (the university where Dr. Owen conducted his famous tennis study) that had employed the tennis technique to test a method of using EEGs to map patterns of brain activity in vegetative patients. Using graph theory, they detected coordinated signals of brain activity, which indicated that the neuronal networks of the subset of patients who were covertly aware connected in similar patterns as the study's healthy controls. They were able to cross-reference their results with fMRI scans by asking the same patients to imagine playing tennis while having their brain activity measured by each form of scan. The same patients whose fMRI scans indicated that they were imagining playing tennis also showed the signature signs of that activity during their EEGs. The above image shows two vegetative patients on the left and in the center. The one on the right is a healthy control. As you can see, the one in the center is virtually identical to the one on the right.
This is what co-author of the study, Tristan Beckinschtein, said about the detection of covert cognition:
This data gives you a different way to think about what the patients can do. You can do the classic test to see if the patient is responding or not. But even if the patient shows nothing, you may see a well-informed information processing network using EEG. And if that is the case, regardless of any other test, the clinician can say, "This guy has the potential to process information. I don't know why he's not processing information, but maybe we can find out." And hopefully, knowing that capacity is there will make physicians keep their eyes open and less likely to write the patient off.As my doctors did.
For those who aren't regular readers of my blog, I should point out that I received an EEG, which not surprisingly showed that my brain was functioning. Yet it couldn't detect my covert cognition. Eben Alexander hasn't released his medical records, but if he had his EEG would undoubtedly show that his brain was functioning, as well. If it hadn't been, that would mean that he was brain-dead, and he wouldn't have been able to write his two books about his near-death experience, just as I wouldn't be typing this sentence now.
Oh, and by the way, when I clicked on the link to the study, whose name do you think I read listed among the researchers? I'll give you a hint: it's an actual neuroscientist, instead of declared "scientist" who throws out everything we know about neuroscience. Yup, it was none other than our old friend, Dr. Adrian Owen. He's still working with Cambridge University, though he's now at Canada's Western University, ever striving for the advancement of covert cognition detection.