News & AnalysisNeuroscience

Brain Studies Stymied by Statistics

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Science  01 Feb 2013:
Vol. 339, Issue 6119, pp. 499
DOI: 10.1126/science.339.6119.499

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When a massive brain injury leaves a person unresponsive, physicians rely on outward signs of recovery, like reaching for a cup or saying an occasional word, to determine whether the patient is likely to regain awareness. In recent years, however, studies of patients diagnosed as "vegetative" have revealed that roughly 40% are actually aware to some extent, spurring efforts to develop clinical tools to detect hidden signs of consciousness. But questions remain over how well these tools really work.