Brain-injured patients who show minimal to no signs of consciousness may still retain functioning brain networks that allow them to learn, researchers report in a study published online today (September 20) in Nature Neuroscience.
A brain scan
Image: Wikipedia
"Determining cognitive processing capacity in behaviorally unresponsive patients has been a real dilemma for clinicians working in brain injury," said linkurl:Joseph Giacino,; the associate director of neuropsychology at the JFK Medical Center in Edison, NJ, who was not involved in the research. "This study provides strong evidence of an active, selective learning process in these patients." Cognitive neuroscientist linkurl:Tristan Bekinschtein; from Cambridge University and his colleagues used a classical conditioning technique to determine whether cognitively impaired patients who had spent more than six months in a vegetative or partially conscious state were able to learn. This conditioning technique is the simplest way to study the neural structures that underlie learning...

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