Jun 1, 2023

Are the olfactory responses of patients in a coma or vegetative state signs of consciousness?

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, neuroscience

Severe brain injuries or head traumas in humans can lead to various stages of so-called disorders of consciousness (DoC). These are states in which consciousness is either partly or entirely absent, such as a coma; unresponsive wakefulness syndrome, also known as a vegetative state; and minimally conscious state.

Accurately evaluating who have lost consciousness is of crucial importance, as it allows doctors to determine what treatments to administer and how to facilitate the re-emergence of consciousness. Typically, to clinically evaluate consciousness, doctors observe the behavior of patients in response to , such as sounds or images.

For instance, while patients in a are awake but continue to be unresponsive to , patients with MCS exhibit some behaviors that indicate that they are conscious. So far, most methods to assess the consciousness level of patients rely on sounds or , yet olfactory stimuli could potentially prove useful too.

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