Doctors Talk to Vegetative Patient: Using fMRI brain scans, doctors were able to communicate with Canadian patient, Scott Routley, who's been in a vegetative state for more than a decade. The doctors asked Routley if he was in any pain to which Routley answered no. It's the first time an uncommunicative, severely brain-injured patient has been able to answer questions related to his care.
Over the years, Routley's parents claim that their son was responding to them by lifting a thumb or moving his eyes, but their interpretations have not been accepted by medical staff. In fact, medical textbooks will need to be updated to include this kind of technique for assessing whether a brain-damaged person has some cognitive abilities.
The procedure was led by British neuroscientist Prof Adrian Owen of the Brain and Mind Institute, University of Western Ontario. In 2010, Owen published research showing that nearly one in five vegetative patients he analyzed using the fMRI method were able to communicate.