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Surprising Science

Thanks to Science, a Better Definition of Consciousness

Science is better defining what have been some gray areas of consciousness. By using brain scans to measure the patients' awareness, we are arriving at sounder and more ethical medicine.

What’s the Latest Development?

New research out of the UK suggests that a new classification system for consciousness will help doctors and families better understand the condition of individuals with brain injuries. By measuring the brain activity of patients in a vegetative state while they responded to doctors’ cuespatients were asked to think of certain images, such as playing tennis or visiting the rooms in their houseresearchers concluded that the vegetative patients’ level of responsiveness was the same as control patients who were entirely conscious.

What’s the Big Idea?

When it comes to consciousness, a fundamental distinction is made between its contents and its levels. The contents of consciousness are our subjective experiences, such as the sound of a violin. “Levels of consciousness, on the other hand, have to do with outward signs of a person’s…state of awareness.” People with aberrant awareness are typically placed into one of three categories: having a coma, being in a vegetative state and being ‘minimally conscious’. But based on recent research, those categories must now be reevaluated.

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