New Tool Could Let Doctors Measure Consciousness

WASHINGTON (August 14, 2013)--It can be hard for doctors to tell if someone who is severely brain injured and unresponsive has any lingering awareness, but a new experimental tool could someday make tracking consciousness as easy as checking blood pressure.

The work reported Wednesday is highly experimental, not ready for bedside use yet.

It involves a magnetic pulse that stimulates the brain.

The resulting waves of electrical activity are then measured and scored.

More complex signatures of brain activity mean more consciousness and higher scores.

Researchers found a clear range with tests on 32 healthy people who were awake, asleep or anesthetized and on 20 people with brain injuries.

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