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Video: Western University turns to Alfred Hitchcock flicks for brain research


The original master of suspense is helping Western University researchers gain a better understanding of patients in vegetative states.

Researchers at the university’s Brain and Mind Institute put a group of healthy people in an MRI scanner alongside someone who has been unresponsive for 16 years and then turned on an Alfred Hitchcock flick.

Brain activity for most of the healthy patients in the screening synchronized and was similar to patterns displayed by the unresponsive patient.

The results, suggests researchers, show that the patient was “consciously aware” and likely understood the movie.

“For the first time, we show that a patient with unknown levels of consciousness can monitor and analyze information from their environment, in the same way as healthy individuals,” said Lorina Naci, a postdoctoral fellow and lead researcher on the new study.

“We already know that up to one in five of these patients are misdiagnosed as being unconscious and this new technique may reveal that that number is even higher.”

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